Rugby Union

Ireland vs Italy Six Nations clash to go ahead as planned despite new Irish lockdown restrictions

Ireland’s penultimate Six Nations clash against Italy will go ahead as scheduled despite the country moving to the highest level of coronavirus restrictions on Monday.

The ‘Level Five’ measures, which have been implemented for at least six weeks until the start of December, will see pubs and non-essential restaurants close and travel restricted to five kilometres, while public gatherings have been banned.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin announced the measures this week that are aimed at curbing Ireland’s rising coronavirus cases before Christmas, even though it will have a serious impact on businesses across the country.

But sports such as horse and greyhound racing, football inter-county GAA sports and rugby union have been given the green light to continue as elite sport will not be restricted as long as safe coronavirus protocols are maintained.

The Six Nations clash in Dublin was one of the first major sporting events to be postponed earlier this year following the outbreak of coronavirus, with restrictions placed on Italian travellers to Ireland after the nation was hit hard by Covid-19 cases and deaths.

The game, which was due to take place on 7 March, has been rescheduled for this Saturday, is the first of two outstanding Six Nations games for Andy Farrell’s side, with their championship hopes hinging on the visit of Italy and the subsequent trip to Paris to face France the following weekend as part of a rescheduled ‘Super Saturday’.

The ruling also means that Ireland’s home Autumn Nations Cup games can go ahead, with the Irish due to play Wales and Georgia in Dublin either side of a trip to Twickenham to face England, before a final match in the Irish capital on 5 December.

Both Ireland and Italy have only played three Six Nations matches compared to the four completed by the other sides. A bonus point win for the hosts would put Ireland one point ahead of England and France going into the final round of games.

The decision will also allow the Republic of Ireland to stage their Nations League game against Bulgaria at the Aviva Stadium on 18 November, which is their final home fixture remaining this calendar year.

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