By Damian Dolan
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell says he would be agreeable to re-fixing the team’s postponed Six Nations games with France and Italy for the autumn.
October 31 is a date being widely reported, while Ireland also has no game scheduled for the weekend of 28/29 November.
It was confirmed on Monday that Ireland’s Round 5 match with France in Paris at Stade de France this weekend is the third fixture in this year’s senior Six Nations tournament to fall victim to the coronavirus.
“We’ve got a window [in November] so we’re very open to that,” Farrell told reporters.
Australia (7/8 November), South Africa (14/15 November) and Japan (21/22 November) are all currently scheduled to visit Dublin’s Aviva Stadium as part of this year’s autumn international series.
Ireland will require two weekends, for their games with France and Italy. A suitable date will also have to be found for England’s game in Italy.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) March 9, 2020
In a statement issued on Monday, tournament organisers Six Nations said the decision to postponed Ireland’s match with France was made “following instructions received from the authorities in France”.
Last weekend French authorities announced a ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people.
They added: “Six Nations and its constituent Unions and federations will work closely to identify dates on which all postponed matches will take place.
“No immediate announcement will be made on rescheduling as we will need to discuss with all relevant stakeholders and assess the evolution of the situation.”
Confirmation is still being awaited on this weekend’s Women’s and U20s matches between Ireland and France.
It leaves the match between Wales and Scotland in Cardiff as the only Round 5 Six Nations game still going ahead on Saturday.
The fixture between Wales Women and Scotland Women has also been postponed after a Scottish player tested positive for Covid-19. A further seven members of the Scotland camp (players and management) are self-isolating.
Whenever the games are re-fixed for, Farrell says Ireland are still “more than in” this year’s Six Nations championship race. England and France also have titles aspirations.
“We’re a team that’s still in control of our own destiny and it’s not a bad place to be,” he said.
“Everyone knows that the Six Nations is unbelievably difficult and everyone judges a performance, but at the end of the day we’re two wins from three.”
However, the postponement of Saturday’s game in Paris – on the back of the postponement of Ireland’s game with Italy in Dublin – denied the players another chance to get the England defeat at Twickenham out of their system.
“As a coach, after a loss you want to get back on the horse,” said Farrell.
“We feel we had a good plan in place last week – we got a good few hit outs, worked really hard and some physical sessions – and we used the weekend to recover properly. We’ve come bouncing in to work and this morning was great.
“We had a plan to fit a situation that’s not the norm to any of us, but we felt like we were in a good place.”
Farrell said the players were “gutted” when they were then informed of the news.
“The reaction of the players, of the back of a good morning’s work, was one of deflation,” he said.
“We’ve built up for a couple on the back of a bitter disappointment and we were looking forward to the week ahead.
“We’re disappointed that it’s not going ahead, but at the same time we fully understand.”
Defeat to England came on the back of a tight win over Scotland and impressive victory against Wales.
Farrell, in his first Six Nations as head coach since taking over from Joe Schmidt, says he’s pleased with the work that’s gone on “in the background” and where the team is “building towards”.
“We know where we’re trying to go and we are making progress. That adds to the frustration of not being able to show that this weekend,” he said.
Statement: France v Ireland Women’s & U-20 matcheshttps://t.co/cxOl6pJJGk
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 10, 2020
Farrell confirmed the players will “slot back in with their provinces in the “not too distant future” with some “big games” coming up in the Pro14 between now and Ireland’s two-Test summer tour of Australia in July.
“We don’t know where we’re going to be in a month’s time never mind a few months time. We’ll just roll with it,” he said.
“There’s a plan in the back of our mind, but plans change.”
In 2001, Ireland’s Six Nations matches against Scotland, Wales and England were postponed due to an outbreak in Britain of the infectious livestock disease foot and mouth. The matches were played later that year across September and October.