RFU expect 2021 Six Nations to go ahead as planned despite virus

Twickenham (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


England's governing Rugby Football Union said Monday it expected the 2021 Six Nations Championship to go ahead as scheduled despite the rising number of coronavirus cases in Britain, Ireland and the rest of Europe.

The latest edition of Europe's annual showpiece rugby union tournament is set to begin on the opening weekend of February, with no spectators because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Italy face France in Rome on February 6, when champions England welcome Scotland to Twickenham for the Calcutta Cup.

Wales and Ireland are scheduled to complete the first round at Cardiff's Principality Stadium on February 7.

"We are committed to the fixtures, monitoring the situation with all parties and planning continues aligned with current guidelines," said an RFU spokesperson.

All the competing unions face losing significant revenue if matches are played behind closed doors, as happened towards the end of last year's competition.

The 2020 Six Nations finished at the end of October after a seven-month pause following the initial spread of Covid-19 across Europe.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that Covid-19 could lead to the postponement of this year's British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

An eight-match itinerary that culminates in a three-Test series against the world champion Springboks is set for July and August.

However, with Britain, Ireland and South Africa still in lockdown to try and bring down infection rate and the possibility of fans being allowed to travel and attend matches receding, the Lions said Saturday that a decision on whether the tour goes ahead a planned could be taken as soon as February.

The RFU added Monday: "We are continuing discussions with all parties and have no update beyond the recent statement from the Lions."

It has long been thought by many within British, Irish and South African rugby that a Lions tour without travelling supporters would not be commercially viable.

Postponing the Lions tour could create a new 'window' in which to play this year's Six Nations in front of spectators.

But holding over the Lions trip until 2022, just over a year out from the 2023 World Cup in France, may lead to clashes with already planned national tours.

England, who could provide the Lions with a large contingent of players, are set to tour Australia while Ireland are in New Zealand and Wales are due in South Africa.