With the coronavirus showing no signs of slowing down, it’s entirely possible that the Six Nations rugby union tournament could now be at risk, given that one of the participants, Italy, is beginning a lockdown in certain areas.

One of the final weekend’s fixtures is now in serious doubt when England are due to travel to Rome on March 14. All of the national team meetings in Italy have been suspended in those regions already affected, with the Italian Rugby Federation taking the unprecedented step of postponing matches at every level this weekend.

Postponed matches in the Six Nations aren’t a new occurrence of course. Back in 2001 at the height of the foot and mouth disease epidemic, three matches were played during September and October of that year. It’s not yet clear whether this season’s tournament will need to be abandoned for a few weeks at best.

“This situation is evolving,” Irish health minister, Simon Harris, told reporters. “The weekend’s activities have shown there is still an awful lot unknown about the coronavirus and about the path it might take. There will be some big decisions in the coming days. Most particularly, I’m thinking of the Ireland-Italy game.”

There have been 229 cases of the COVID-19 virus confirmed in Italy, with seven deaths also reported so far.

With that in mind, other sports in the region continue to be affected. The women’s Six Nations match between Italy and Scotland was postponed, whilst Zebre v Ospreys and Benetton v Ulster in the Pro14 tournament have also been called off. “To ensure the safety of our players and spectators, Pro14 Rugby fully supports the preventative measures taken in Italy,” a statement read.

Some Serie A matches were called off last weekend including Inter Milan’s, and the Nerazzurri’s fixture v Ludogrets in the Europa League will now be played behind closed doors on Thursday evening.

The Milan‑San Remo cycle race in March is also at risk. Race head Mauro Vegni told Cycling News: “We hope that, with time, the situation will improve and that the number of cases will not increase. Milan-San Remo is the one that worries me the most.”

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