Six Nations organisers draw up contingency plans regarding France participation

Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent

Six Nations organisers have drawn up contingency plans as they seek clarification over the logistics of France’s participation in the Championship just 10 days before it is scheduled to begin.

Speaking at the tournament’s virtual launch, chief executive Ben Morel outlined his belief that the outstanding issue over travel restrictions to and from the UK would be finalised with the French government.

The Six Nations has strengthened its coronavirus protocols, including the addition of a second round of testing each week, to help convince Paris that the event can be staged safely.

Six Nations chief executive Ben Morel is confident France will take part as scheduled
Six Nations chief executive Ben Morel is confident France will take part as scheduled (Steve Paston/PA)

It was concerns over cross-border travel that saw the French government block their Top 14 clubs from competing in Europe this month.

Trips to European Union destinations Italy and Ireland have been given clearance, but the visit to England and the arrival of Scotland and Wales at the Stade de France are causing complications.

“All our protocols have been considered extremely robust and we are seeking clarification on the specific rules of quarantine exemptions,” Morel said.

“We are awaiting clarification on entry from the UK and re-entry for the French team or other unions. We are confident we will get the right authorisation.

“The only thing we are waiting for the green light and clarification on is the seven-day isolation and to whom that applies.

“Generally, elite sport benefits from widespread exemptions because they have stringent protocols.

“We need the detail of the exemption and we need to understand: is the exemption for the players, for the operational staff, or for both?

“We believe that exemptions are being given on a case-by-case (basis). That is the green light that we are waiting on.”

France are due to visit Twickenham on March 13
France are due to visit Twickenham on March 13 (Matt Alexander/PA)

When asked about the possibility of Scotland or Wales travelling to Paris a week early in order to fulfil quarantine rules, Morel said: “We are looking at a series of contingencies, but we do not expect to get that problem.

“If that was the case, then Scotland would be playing on fallow weekends and Wales would be coming from Italy, so there are solutions.

“We are confident in our ability to stage the matches at the right time, it’s more about what logistical gymnastics we need to adapt to.”

In the event that matches have to be called off because of an outbreak of coronavirus amongst any of the competing nations, then Morel insists every effort would be made to stage them on another date.

The two fallow weeks offer scope for this and the policy is a deviation from the Autumn Nations Cup when games were automatically cancelled with the winners awarded a 28-0 victory.

“We’re all doing our best for that not to happen. We would treat every specific issue on a case-by-case basis. The primary focus would be to reschedule,” Morel said.

“The reason why we went for immediate results during the Autumn Nations Cup was that it had to progress as a competition because there was a finals weekend.

“So an immediate result week after week was necessary. In the case of the Six Nations, we’d obviously want to protect the sporting integrity of the Championship as much as possible.”

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