Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations game against Italy in Dublin on March 7 has been postponed due to the risk posed by the coronavirus outbreak.
The Irish Rugby Football Union announced the decision following a meeting with Irish Health Minister Simon Harris and his advisers on Wednesday.
China has reported 77,658 cases and 2,663 deaths following the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus that has spread to a variety of countries, including Italy, where authorities have swiftly put in restrictions.
Ireland were also due to play Italy in an under-20 Six Nations game and women’s international that weekend.
In a statement, the IRFU said: “The IRFU had a positive meeting with Minister Harris and his advisors today, where we requested a formal instruction as to the staging of the Ireland v Italy international matches over the weekend of 6/8 March.
“At the outset we made it clear that the IRFU was supportive of the Governments’ need to protect public health in relation to the coronavirus.
“We were then advised, formally, that the National Public Health emergency team has determined that the series of matches should not proceed, in the interests of public health.
“The IRFU is happy to comply with this instruction.”
“We will immediately begin to work with our Six Nations partners to look at the possibility of rescheduling the matches, and would hope to have an update on this in the coming days.”
This season’s Six Nations has two rounds of scheduled action remaining, and is due to conclude in Paris on March 14 when current tournament leaders and title favourites France host Ireland. Italy’s final scheduled game of this season’s tournament is against England in Rome on March 14.
In 2001, Ireland’s matches against the other home unions – Scotland, Wales and England – were postponed following a foot and mouth outbreak and delayed until September and October that year.
Meanwhile, the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships – scheduled to take place in Seoul next month – have been cancelled due to the spread of the virus.
The sport’s governing body, the International Skating Union, confirmed the news on the day that the number of cases in South Korea was reported to have exceeded 1,000.
It follows the decision by officials in the South Korean capital to close and cancel all competitions at the Mokdong Ice Rink, which had been due to host the event.
Triple world champion Elise Christie tweeted her disappointment, writing: “Unfortunately our world championships has been either cancelled or postponed to be reallocated with the ongoing covid-19 situation.
“But more importantly let’s hope the virus gets contained soon and further loss of life and illness is minimised as much as possible.”
ISU officials indicated it was impractical to consider postponing or finding a new venue for the Championships at such a late stage.
And the PA news agency understands the Football Association is holding internal discussions at Wembley to discuss the implications of the virus.
Italian authorities have put restrictions in place in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease, with Inter Milan’s Europa League match at home to Ludogorets set to be played behind closed doors on Thursday, on the back of four Serie A matches being postponed last weekend.
Italy are due to play England at Wembley in a friendly on March 27, and the FA is meeting to discuss that match as well as other matters related to the outbreak.
England’s partially sighted team are due to to play in Italy next month, while there was also talk of Italy’s under-18s heading to the UK.
So far, the FA has said it will continue to take Government advice, with no special measures currently planned for next month’s match against Italy.
UEFA are working to the existing timetable for Euro 2020 but say the situation will be under constant review.
“EURO 2020 will kick off on 12th June 2020 in Rome. UEFA is in touch with the relevant international and local authorities regarding the Coronavirus and its development,” a UEFA statement read.
“For the moment, there is no need to change anything in the planned timetable. The issue will be kept under constant scrutiny.”
Cycling’s world governing body the UCI admitted it was impossible to predict whether races in Italy may also need to be cancelled.
Organisers RCS have already said that Milan-San Remo, one of the biggest one-day races on the world calendar, may not go ahead on March 21 as it is due to visit affected areas.
Before then, the one-day Strade Bianche and the week-long Tirreno-Adriatico are due to take place in the country, while there may also be speculation over the Giro d’Italia in May.
A UCI statement said: “It is not currently possible to predict in the medium term whether competitions in this country will be maintained or cancelled, given the rapidity with which new outbreaks are declared, like yesterday in Tuscany, Sicily and Liguria.
“The UCI remains in close contact with organisers of international cycling competitions and the health authorities of host countries, in order to contribute as far as it can to the limitation of risks of the virus spreading throughout the world.”
The statement made no reference to the UCI Track Cycling World Championships, which began in Berlin on Wednesday.