Coronavirus: England Six Nations game against Italy in Rome postponed amid outbreak

England’s Six Nations game against Italy on March 14 in Rome has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Tournament organisers faced the option of playing the game behind closed doors at the Stadio Olimpico or delaying it until later in the year and they have chosen the latter option.

Official confirmation of the decision is expected from Six Nations later today.

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Shaping the decision is the Italian Rugby Federation’s desire to retain the revenue generated by a lucrative home clash with Eddie Jones’ title hopefuls.

By staging the game behind closed doors, the cash-strapped union would have missed out on gate receipts for a 73,000 sell-out.

It is the second game of the 2020 Six Nations to be postponed after Ireland’s clash with Italy in Dublin on Saturday was also called off on public health grounds.

An estimated 20,000 England fans were due to travel to Rome and their plans are now in chaos, while reports suggested ITV and the BBC had already abandoned plans to send commentators and pundits to the fixture.

Italy is the European country most afflicted by the coronavirus with in excess of 3,000 people infected – a number that includes over 100 deaths. Eleven towns in northern Italy are in lockdown.

The Italian government has also ordered all school, colleges and universities to close until March 15.

Mako Vunipola on Tuesday became the first player to be ruled out of a game because of Covid-19 after he returned home from Tonga via Hong Kong, a location suffering from a substantial outbreak.

Although asymptomatic, England took the decision to stand Vunipola down as a precautionary measure due to their 24/7 camp environment.

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