Italy coach Roberto Mancini was disappointed Euro 2020 had to be called off but described the recent scenes in his country as "a punch in the face".

UEFA made the decision to postpone the European Championship until 2021, while all other UEFA competitions and matches for clubs and national teams have been put on hold until further notice.

Mancini said he had been talking to players as part of his preparations for Italy's scheduled March friendlies against England and Germany.

But with the coronavirus hitting Italy particularly hard, he said his focus now is on helping those in need, with the death toll in Italy passing 4,800 on Saturday.

"In the past few weeks I called some of my players, especially those who are injured and ones in doubt," Mancini told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I worked on the friendlies with England and Germany and I started setting up Euro 2020.

"I must admit that I felt disappointed when it was announced [that it was cancelled].

"The film of that military convoy that took the coffins away from Bergamo was a punch in the face, the hardest and most striking image.

"No one was ready for this hell. To think that people are dying because there's a lack of beds and respirators.

"I never even thought about leaving Italy, because I feel safe here and our medics are doing heroic work. I want to feel close to those who are in difficulty.

"And I say that as a simple citizen, not as someone who has a symbolic role in Italy."

Mancini said he was heartened by the displays of solidarity among Italian citizens being widely shared on social media, where videos of communities spontaneously bursting into song from their balconies have become popular.

"I like it very much," said the former Manchester City head coach. "It's the most authentic Italy. It represents us.

"It is we who give our best in difficult circumstances, when we hug, help and put all our humanity into play.

"These people, after so much pain and fear, would have deserved the European Championship to get distracted and start again."

Italy's World Cup-winning side of 2006 are coming together to raise funds to fight coronavirus, according to Azzurri legend Alessandro Del Piero, who warned the United States that the worst is yet to come.

The former Juventus attacker posted a message on Instagram announcing the fundraiser involving stars from Italy's 2006 triumph, including Francesco Totti, Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon.

Del Piero is spearheading the campaign to raise funds for the Italian Red Cross, and he told his 3.7million followers: "You are part of our team too."

In an interview with Sky Sport Italia, Del Piero – who lives in Los Angeles – said that the USA is currently going through the stages of the pandemic that his homeland experienced over the last fortnight.

"We are basically experiencing now what Italy had two or three weeks ago," said Del Piero.

"There isn’t currently any clear advice on what to do, so people are panic-buying in the supermarkets.

"We Italians followed what was happening back home and are therefore more prepared.

"America will not be immune from the coronavirus."

Roberto Mancini said Italy can win the European Championship even if the finals are rescheduled for 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

UEFA is set to hold a critical summit on Tuesday, with talks planned on whether or not the finals can be held as scheduled in June and July, and Italian football federation president Gabriele Gravina has said he will call for the tournament to be postponed.

Italy has been one of the worst-affected countries by the coronavirus and players across all Serie A clubs are training at home in self-isolation.

The Azzurri's scheduled March friendlies against England and Germany have been cancelled, but head coach Mancini said football is not his top priority at the current time, telling Rai Sport: "I don't know how it will end. But there are more important things than Euro 2020, without a doubt.

"If they postpone the tournament, we can win even in a year. The important thing is the health of everyone and that we can all return to the stadium and enjoy ourselves.

"Seeing people die in these last few days is hurting us too much."

Italy won all 10 of their European Championship qualifying matches, which culminated in a 9-1 thrashing of Armenia in November.

Mancini said he has a squad of players in mind for the finals but indicated he is prepared to reassess his plans if the tournament is postponed.

"I had a fairly safe list of players called," he said. "It was ready with only a few doubts to decide at the last minute.

"However, if the tournament is suspended for a year, there will be a few changes.

"We have to wait to Tuesday to understand if UEFA will decide to postpone Euro 2020. The problems we have had in Italy in the last 15 days will now be seen in other countries."

The coronavirus pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the sporting calendar on Saturday with more major events and competitions being disrupted.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 rapidly spreading across the globe, it has resulted in the postponement of competitions worldwide as governments attempt to combat the pandemic.

A small number of events still went ahead, but sports stars, teams and indeed supporters were otherwise left to find other means of entertainment.

With the number of confirmed cases worldwide now totalling over 155,000, we round up all the latest news and updates.

 

Germany's prestige friendly with Italy later this month became the latest football fixture to bite the dust, with the majority of upcoming international matches having now been wiped out.

More major organisations have halted all footballing activities until a later date, including Qatar, Morocco and Egypt.

A small number of competitions, most notably the A-League, Russian Premier League and Mexico's Liga MX, did manage to go ahead as planned.

Indeed, NRL games also avoided the cut, as did a handful of Super Rugby matches before an indefinite ban was put in place later in the day.

Another competition to fall was Australia's one-day international series against New Zealand, which was already being played behind closed doors.

With New Zealand's government introducing strict protocols to attempt to slow the spread of the virus, the Black Caps – along with Super Rugby side Highlanders – returned home from Australia and Argentina respectively in order to beat the new restrictions, which will mean any new arrival to the country, even if they are a citizen, has to self-isolate for 14 days.

With the top-four tiers of English football being shelved until at least early April, there was plenty of focus on the National League as six games were given the green light.

There was some controversy in Argentina as River Plate's Copa Superliga clash with Atletico Tucuman was suspended after the home side refused to open their stadium.

Independiente's tie with Velez Sarsfield was played out in full, albeit behind closed doors, with the hosts claiming a 1-0 victory.

In Italy, Napoli urged their supporters to sing from their balconies in unison as Fiorentina's Patrick Cutrone and two more Sampdoria players tested positive for COVID-19.

Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy revealed a negative test result after recently self-isolating, but Carlo Ancelotti and Angelo Ogbonna questioned the Premier League's handling of the outbreak, while Jordan Pickford denied reports he is self-isolating.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady, meanwhile, claimed the competition should be "void" – a suggestion Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher quickly dismissed.

The lack of football did not stop certain clubs from keeping supporters entertained, though, with LaLiga side Leganes posting live updates of a fictitious match against Real Valladolid, which they won 2-1.

Perhaps inspired by their Spanish counterparts, Southampton got Manchester City involved in an online game of noughts and crosses to help fill the void.

The downtime also gave football stars a chance to recuperate, with Sergio Ramos and Alexis Sanchez among those to post images of their extra-curricular activities.

Others, such as Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and FIFA president Gianni Infantino, opted to use social media to educate their followers on how to properly wash their hands, while Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi used his profile to echo the sentiments of Cristiano Ronaldo in calling for people to follow the guidance of health organisations.

As Ronaldo and Jurgen Klopp were praised by the World Health Organisation for "protecting people from coronavirus", former United States president Barack Obama hailed a host of NBA stars – including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson – for donating large amounts to help support arena staff during the league's hiatus.

UFC superstar Conor McGregor labelled the pandemic "a stupid f****** virus", but later moved to clarify his aunt did not die after contracting the disease after previously suggesting as such.

And in more positive news, Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe revealed his country still plan for the 2020 Olympic Games to go ahead in Tokyo, starting in late July.

The International Olympic Committee will have the final say, but ABE is confident the Games will be staged "without problem".

Italy's scheduled upcoming friendly in Germany has been cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic, the German Football Association (DFB) has confirmed.

Sport in Italy - including Serie A - has been shut down until April 3, with the country suffering over 17,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 1,266 deaths - the worst figures outside of China.

Meanwhile, the Bundesliga has also been suspended. Germany has close to 4,000 cases and eight deaths.

International football has been allowed to continue, in theory, although FIFA has recommended the postponement of fixtures.

An international break is set for the weekend before April 3, yet clubs will no longer be required to release their players following a FIFA Council decision.

And with events of more than 100 people banned in Nuremberg, where Italy were set to face Germany, the March 31 fixture has unsurprisingly been called off.

Italy's friendly meeting with England was postponed on Friday.

Further calls on international fixtures are anticipated, with World Cup qualifiers in Asia and South America already pushed back.

Top-flight football is continuing behind closed doors in Serbia, but Football Association of Serbia (FSS) president Slavisa Kokeza has now tested positive for coronavirus.

"We want to emphasise that the president of the football organisation is under medical supervision and is well and the Football Association is continuing its regular activities," a statement from the FSS read.

Serbia have a Euro 2020 play-off against Norway in the diary for March 26, although UEFA is set to make a call on the scheduling of the finals in a meeting on Tuesday.

Wednesday has seen the coronavirus outbreak take further toll on sport across the world.

Further matches have been postponed while others appear unable to go ahead due to increased travel restrictions between affected countries.

Governing bodies are also taking steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by cancelling planned meetings, while others are calling for further changes to the calendar.

Here are some of the latest events to be impacted.

Football's governing body has decided to cancel the next FIFA Congress in Addis Ababa on June 5. It has also pushed back the coming FIFA Council meeting in Zurich, due to be on March 20, until June or July. Attendees may be required to join via a video link.

In France, the Coupe de la Ligue final on April 4 between Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon has been postponed. The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) said a new date would be announced in due course. It means the PSG-Metz and Lyon-Nimes Ligue 1 matches will be moved to the weekend of April 4-5 but be held behind closed doors. PSG will have Kylian Mbappe available against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, though: the striker is in the squad after overcoming illness, with L'Equipe among those to report he had tested negative for coronavirus.

Germany has seen the first confirmed instance of a footballer contracting coronavirus. Hannover defender Timo Hubers has tested positive but been praised by the club for his "absolutely exemplary" behaviour, as he immediately self-isolated before coming into contact with the rest of the squad.

Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich will face Union Berlin on Saturday behind closed doors, and the latter's derby with Hertha Berlin on March 21 will take place under the same circumstances. Borussia Monchengladbach have urged fans not to gather outside the stadium ahead of Wednesday's match with Cologne.

FIFPro, the footballers' union, has urged governing bodies across the world "to respect the wishes of players to take short-term precautionary measures including suspending training or competitions". Steps are certainly being taken in Spain, where the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has recommended football at all levels beneath the top two professional leagues to be called off for two weeks. The RFEF will reportedly meet with league officials to discuss similar proposals for LaLiga and the Segunda Division.

Meanwhile, Roma's match with Sevilla in the Europa League last 16 on Thursday is off after the Italian club confirmed they had not been given permission by the government to fly to Andalusia. Getafe had already refused to travel for their game with Inter in Italy.

The big news in England was that Manchester City versus Arsenal was called off as a precaution after the Gunners came into contact with Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis, who announced on Tuesday that he had caught the disease. In general, though, the UK has not been following the same stringent protocols as some other European nations and that is continuing for now. Arsenal's match with Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday has not been called off, while England's planned friendlies at Wembley this month against Italy and Denmark are, at present, going ahead. Forest have also confirmed all players and staff have tested negative for coronavirus.

In Scotland, Rangers boss Steven Gerrard says the domestic season must be completed, even if behind closed doors, "because people have earned the opportunity to get to the stage where everyone is at". League chief executive Neil Doncaster claimed last week that completing the Premiership season could become "very difficult".

The England and Wales Cricket Board has told supporters "to maintain good levels of hygiene" during England's tour of Sri Lanka. As a precaution, players and staff have been told to avoid casual interaction with fans, such as selfies and autographs.

In Bangladesh, the World XI v Asia XI matches that would have marked the birthday celebrations of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman have been postponed, while the Indian Open has been called off following a consultation between the Indian Golf Union, the European Tour, the Asian Tour and tournament sponsors.

MotoGP has also announced that the Argentina Grand Prix has been moved to November. The opening race of the season in Qatar and the Grand Prix of the Americas have already been rescheduled.

UEFA has not received a single request to postpone Euro 2020 amid concerns about coronavirus, despite claims to the contrary.

COVID-19 is starting to cause widespread disruption to sport across Europe, particularly in Italy, Germany, France and Spain.

Italy is the most-affected European nation, with 9,172 cases of infection reported as of Tuesday, and that has led to all sporting activities being postponed until April 3.

In Spain, fans have been prohibited from attending games at all levels over the next two matchdays, though that could change after the Spanish Footballers' Association (AFE) requested all action be postponed instead.

Euro 2020, which will be played across 12 European nations, is set to begin in Rome on June 12 – though reports on Tuesday suggested some federations have asked for the tournament be delayed until 2021.

UEFA insists no such requests have been received, however.

A spokesperson told Stats Perform: "We did not receive a single request from national associations to postpone the tournament."

Along with Italy, Euro 2020 is scheduled to be hosted in Azerbaijan, Denmark, England, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Russia, Scotland and Spain.

As the coronavirus crisis deepens, European football is continuing to deal with its consequences.

We take a look at how COVID-19 has affected the top five leagues, as well as associated players and teams.

 

Italy

Serie A, Serie B, Coppa Italia – POSTPONED

Following a government decree issued on Monday, all public gathering are prohibited until April 3, with the whole country put on lockdown.

This directly impacts domestic football, which has been postponed. The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) is exploring alternatives if the Serie A season – which is constrained by international deadlines relating to Euro 2020 – cannot run its course.

The three suggestions the FIGC has put forward are: to end the season early and crown the leader at that point as champions; halt the 2019-20 campaign without any team winning the title; or have play-offs for the Scudetto and relegation spots.

Germany

Bundesliga, 2.Bundesliga – ACTIVE

The situation in Germany is being dealt with on a case-by-case basis in local regions and is yet to cause widespread disruption to the two highest divisions, however COVID-19 is spreading rapidly.

Bavaria's government has prohibited events with more than 1,000 people until April 19, in a move that will impact Bayern Munich and Augsburg from the Bundesliga.

Die Roten's Champions League meeting with Chelsea next Wednesday will take place in an empty Allianz Arena, though their away match against Union Berlin this weekend is set to go ahead as normal.

Next Wednesday's Rhine derby between Borussia Monchengladbach and Cologne has already been confirmed as the first Bundesliga game to be played with no fans.

Germany's Euro 2020 warm-up friendly against Italy on March 31 will also be behind closed doors.

France

Ligue 1, Ligue 2 – BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

After a previous government decision had announced matches could only be played in front of a maximum of 1,000 fans, authorities have since demanded all games go ahead with no spectators until April 15.

Paris Saint-Germain have already had their meeting with Strasbourg – initially set for last weekend – postponed due to coronavirus, while their upcoming Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund will be played without fans.

LaLiga

LaLiga, La Segunda – BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

It was confirmed on Tuesday that all sporting events in Spain will be played behind closed doors over the next two weeks.

However, following the request of Segunda side Real Zaragoza to postpone all matches instead, the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) added weight to such a call, insisting Spain should be following the lead of countries like Italy and Switzerland.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) is set to make a decision on Friday regarding the friendly with Germany at the Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid on March 26.

England

Premier League, the Football League – ACTIVE

As of March 10, English football is yet to be directly impacted by COVID-19.

However, Championship side Nottingham Forest confirmed on Tuesday their owner Evangelos Marinakis had tested positive for the virus.

It is unclear how that will impact on Forest and the division as a whole.

The coronavirus continues to have a huge impact on the sporting calendar. 

Further measures to prevent the spread of the virus were taken on Tuesday, affecting a plethora of sports and leagues.

More events were subject to postponements, while games taking place in empty arenas will become a regular sight in the coming weeks.

Here we look at the sporting decisions announced as the world attempts to tackle the outbreak.

 

Catalans Dragons have confirmed their match against Leeds Rhinos on Saturday will be played behind closed doors at the Gilbert Brutus stadium. 

The French side wanted to move the fixture to Leeds or play on an alternative date later in the year, but their request was rejected after a meeting involving the RFL, Super League and both teams.

Catalans released a statement expressing their disappointment at a decision they explained would "hugely impact the finances of the club", with revenues from the upcoming match having already been factored into their budget.

All professional football matches in Portugal will take place behind closed doors this weekend, with the possibility of that being extended for an indefinite period.

President of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, has said France's two matches against Ukraine and Finland this month will be played without spectators present at the Stade de France.

The Finland match was initially scheduled to be played at Lyon's Groupama Stadium but Le Graet felt playing at a different venue to their regular home in Paris would no longer make sense.

Scottish champions Celtic are asking players to "limit their appearances at events outwith training and playing duties", while avoiding interactions with fans such as taking selfies or signing autographs.

The DEL, Germany's top Ice Hockey league, has ended its ongoing 2019-20 season with immediate effect. They will not hold end-of-season play-offs nor will a champion be crowned.

With March Madness now a week away, NCAA president Mark Emmert has insisted neither health experts nor the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control have advised against sporting events being held.

The update came after the Ivy League announced its postseason tournament was cancelled. Yale have been declared Ivy League champions and will represent it in March Madness.

Barcelona have released the latest steps they are taking relating to the COVID-19 outbreak. All their games at professional, amateur and youth levels will be played behind closed doors, with all ticket holders to be refunded by the club.

Barca academy activities in China, Japan, Jordan, Dubai and Kuwait have all been suspended, and their Academy World Cup tournament has been cancelled. The youth team will not take part in any away tournaments or friendlies during the months of March and April.

Northern Irish champions Linfield have confirmed an unnamed player has tested positive for coronavirus and BBC Sport are reporting the club's Windsor Park stadium will be closed for the next two days while a deep clean takes place.

The rearranged Bundesliga match between rivals Borussia Monchengladbach and Cologne, which was originally cancelled due to Storm Ciara, will now be played behind closed doors on Wednesday.

Gladbach CEO Stephan Schippers expressed his concern at a news conference as he explained the club would lose €2m each time this happened.

Germany and Italy's friendly match, set to take place on March 31 in Nuremberg, will now be played behind closed doors, the German Football Association (DFB) confirmed. Additionally, there will be no fans at the Bundesliga game between Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin on March 14.

In France, Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 games will be played behind closed doors until April 15. France's minister for sport Roxana Maracineanu had on Monday said games could be played with a limit of 1,000 fans, but the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) confirmed on Tuesday that no fans will be permitted. Earlier, Maracineanu called for fans to show "responsibility" and avoid "any damaging impact on public order" when Paris Saint-Germain play Borussia Dortmund behind closed doors in the Champions League on Wednesday.

All sporting activity in Italy is suspended until April 3 by the country's Olympic Committee. In a statement, the committee conceded it does not have jurisdiction over international competitions. Following that, it was confirmed the Champions League clash between Barcelona and Napoli at Camp Nou on March 18 will go ahead behind closed doors. The Italian club insisted reports claiming they wanted the match to be postponed were "fake news".

The PGA of America and PGA Tour have rejected suggestions the US PGA Championship, which is to be held from May 14-17 at TPC Harding Park, could be moved from San Francisco after this week's tennis tournaments in Indian Wells were cancelled. 

"They [PGA of America officials] are fully planning on proceeding with the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco," PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said. "There is no plan at this point in time for the PGA Championship to be held here. It's going to be held at TPC Harding Park."

However, the MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas, which was scheduled for April 3-5 in Austin, is postponed and will instead take place in November.

The coronavirus continues to have a huge impact on the sporting calendar. 

Further measures to prevent the spread of the virus were taken on Tuesday, affecting a plethora of sports and leagues.

More events were subject to postponements, while games taking place in empty arenas will become a regular sight in the coming weeks.

Here we look at the sporting decisions announced as the world attempts to tackle the outbreak.

 

In France, Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 games will be played behind closed doors until April 15. France's minister for sport Roxana Maracineanu had on Monday said games could be played with a limit of 1,000 fans, but the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) confirmed on Tuesday that no fans will be permitted. Earlier, Maracineanu called for fans to show "responsibility" and avoid "any damaging impact on public order" when Paris Saint-Germain play Borussia Dortmund behind closed doors in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The friendly between Germany and Italy, set to take place on March 31 in Nuremberg, will now be played behind closed doors, the German Football Association (DFB) confirmed. Additionally, there will be no fans at the Bundesliga game between Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin on March 14.

Also in Germany, the rearranged Bundesliga match between rivals Borussia Monchengladbach and Cologne, which was originally cancelled due to Storm Ciara, will now be played behind closed doors on Wednesday.

Gladbach CEO Stephan Schippers expressed his concern at a news conference, saying: "From a commercial perspective, you can't plan for something like this. 

"We will lose €2million per game. We have insurance against games that are called off, but not if they are played behind closed doors. That will hurt all clubs, including Borussia, financially.

"Fans have the right to be reimbursed. The settlement process will be discussed, but for now we need to see if more games will also follow. In that sense, we will find the right solution."

All sporting activity in Italy is suspended until April 3 by the country's Olympic Committee. In a statement, the committee conceded it does not have jurisdiction over international competitions. Following that, it was confirmed the Champions League clash between Barcelona and Napoli at Camp Nou on March 18 will go ahead behind closed doors. The Italian club insisted reports claiming they wanted the match to be postponed were "fake news".

The PGA of America and PGA Tour have rejected suggestions the US PGA Championship, which is to be held from May 14-17 at TPC Harding Park, could be moved from San Francisco after this week's tennis tournaments in Indian Wells were cancelled. 

"They [PGA of America officials] are fully planning on proceeding with the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco," PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said. "There is no plan at this point in time for the PGA Championship to be held here. It's going to be held at TPC Harding Park."

However, the MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas, which was scheduled for April 3-5 in Austin, is postponed and will instead take place in November.

In the first indication that coronavirus could impact the NCAA men's basketball tournament, also known as March Madness, in the United States, the Ivy League announced its postseason tournament is cancelled. Yale have been declared Ivy League champions and will represent it in March Madness.

Wales will follow the advice of Italian authorities on whether Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey will be allowed to leave the country to take part in their home matches with Austria and USA later this month, amid the lockdown on travel in Italy.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport released a statement insisting there was "no rationale" to postponing sporting events at this stage in the United Kingdom. Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney said the message sporting authorities had received from the government was "let's not panic".

Matches in Poland's top flight, the Ekstraklasa, will be played without supporters until further notice. The Europa League final is scheduled to be played in Gdansk on May 27.

Ticket sales for Northern Ireland's away Euro 2020 play-off match against Bosnia-Herzegovina on March 26 have been suspended amid fears over the outbreak.

The Euro 2020 play-off match between the Republic of Ireland and Slovakia in Bratislava on March 26 will be played with no fans present on the instruction of the Slovakian government, with all supporters who bought tickets to be refunded.

The owner of Greek side Olympiacos and Championship club Nottingham Forest, Evangelos Marinakis, has confirmed he has contracted COVID-19. He wrote on Instagram: "The virus has 'visited' me and I felt obliged to let the public know. I feel good as I take all the necessary measures and I discipline to the doctors' instructions."

The Six Nations encounter between Italy and England at Stadio Olimpico on March 14 has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It was announced by the Italian government on Wednesday that any sporting events that were staged would be played behind closed doors until April 3.

Six Nations organisers on Thursday stated that the game in Rome will not go ahead as scheduled in a country where the virus has killed 107 people.

The encounter between Ireland and Italy, due to be played in Dublin on Saturday, was postponed last week due to the spread of COVID-19.

A statement issued by the tournament organisers read: "Six Nations notes the decree issued by the Italian Government on March 4 with respect to all upcoming sporting events in that country.

"The decision has now been taken to postpone the three matches between Italy and England (men's, women's, and U20) set to take place over the weekend of March 13/14/15, with the intention to reschedule them at later dates.

"Based on the information that is currently available, all other Six Nations matches are set to go ahead as scheduled. As previously stated, Six Nations fully intends to complete all 15 games across all three championships when time allows. We will refrain from making any rescheduling announcements while we keep assessing the situation."

The statement concluded: "Six Nations will continue to monitor developments with our unions and their respective governments and health authorities. We remain fully supportive of any preventative measures taken in the interests of overall public health in relation to the coronavirus and we will respect instructions provided by government authorities and health organisations.

 

England's Six Nations finale against Italy in Rome on March 14 is set to be played behind closed doors amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus.

Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Wednesday that sporting events that are allowed to go ahead in Italy will have to take place behind closed doors until April 3.

The decision came following a government decree, with Italy, which has the most cases of any European country, taking further preventative measures against the virus. There have been 2,502 confirmed cases in Italy, with 80 deaths.

Rather than cancel all events, sporting fixtures in regions not severely affected by the virus can take place without members of the public in attendance for the next 30 days.

Italy's penultimate Six Nations game with Ireland in Dublin had been scheduled to take place on Saturday, but it was postponed last week because of concerns over the virus.

England could go into the final round of fixtures with a chance of winning the tournament, but they face having to round off their campaign in front of an empty Stadio Olimpico.

The decree stated: "Sports events and competitions of all kinds and disciplines, held in every place, both public and private, are suspended.

"However, in municipalities other than those listed in Annex 1 of the prime minister's decree of March 1, 2020, and subsequent amendments, the holding of the aforementioned events and competitions, as well as training sessions for competitive athletes, is still allowed inside sports facilities used behind closed doors, or outdoors without the presence of the public.

"In all such cases, associations and sports clubs, by means of their medical staff, are required to carry out the appropriate checks to contain the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus among athletes, technicians, managers and all accompanying persons who participate."

It added: "The provisions of this decree have their effect from the date of publication in the Official Gazette of the Italian Republic and are effective, subject to different provisions contained in the individual measures, until April 3, 2020."

France and Croatia will play out a repeat of their World Cup final having been drawn in the same group in the 2020-21 Nations League with defending champions Portugal, while Germany and Spain will go head-to-head.

Fernando Santos' side won the inaugural competition last year, beating Netherlands 1-0 in the final thanks to Goncalo Guedes, though Group 3 looks set to significantly test their mettle this time around – Sweden also joining them with Croatia and France.

The format of the competition changes slightly this time around, with the groups containing four teams rather than three, but as before the top team from each of the four groups in League A will meet in the Nations League finals.

Italy will fancy their chances of reaching the final stages having been drawn with Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Netherlands, the latter likely their biggest challengers.

In Group 4, Germany and Spain will be the favourites ahead of Ukraine and Switzerland, while England and Belgium are in Group 2 with Iceland and Denmark.

The competition will commence in early September, with the Finals set for June 2021.

League A

Group 1: Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy, Netherlands

Group 2: Iceland, Denmark, Belgium, England

Group 3: Croatia, Sweden, France, Portugal

Group 4: Germany, Ukraine, Spain, Switzerland

LEAGUE B

Group 1: Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland, Romania

Group 2: Czech Republic, Scotland, Slovakia, Israel

Group 3: Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Hungary

Group 4: Wales, Finland, Republic of Ireland, Bulgaria

 

LEAGUE C

Group 1: Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Montenegro

Group 2: Armenia, Estonia, Macedonia, Georgia

Group 3: Moldova, Slovenia, Kosovo, Greece

Group 4: Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Belarus, Albania

 

LEAGUE D

Group 1: Malta, Andorra, Latvia, Faroe Islands

Group 2: San Marino, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar

Six Nations organisers say all remaining fixtures in the tournament will go ahead but the situation will continue to be monitored amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

The round-four clash between Ireland and Italy in Dublin, due to be played this weekend, was postponed last Wednesday in the interest of public health, but the match is due to be rearranged.

No further games have been cancelled following a Six Nations meeting in Paris on Monday.

England's final-weekend trip to Rome to face Italy is schedule to go ahead as planned, but the women's and Under-20 showdowns in Padua and Verona respectively may be relocated.

A Six Nations statement said: "The Six Nations met today in Paris to address the current situation regarding the Covid-19 Virus.

"Six Nations and its six unions and federations are following the situation very closely with their respective governments and relevant health authorities and will strictly follow any directive given that would impact sporting events.

"As it stands today, based on the latest information, all Six Nations matches currently scheduled are set to go ahead.  

"Six Nations is in contact with FIR and RFU regarding the possibility of relocating the Women's and U20 Italy vs England matches to another Italian location and we will make a further announcement on this in due course.

"However, the Italy vs England Senior Men's match in Rome is planned to go ahead as scheduled.

"Six Nations intends to complete all 15 games across all three championships when time allows but we will refrain from making any rescheduling announcements for the time being while we keep assessing the situation."

Ireland's Six Nations clash with Italy in Dublin has been called off amid fears over the spread of the Coronavirus.

Andy Farrell's side had been due to host Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday March 7 in their penultimate game of the tournament.

However, the outbreak of the virus in northern Italy had led to calls for the game to be postponed.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) met with the country's minister for health, Simon Harris, on Tuesday and it was determined the game should not go ahead.

The matches in the Women's Six Nations and the Under-20 Six Nations have also been postponed.

An IRFU statement read: "The IRFU had a positive meeting with Minister Harris and his advisors today, where we requested a formal instruction as to the staging of the Ireland v Italy international matches over the weekend of 6/8 March.

"At the outset we made it clear that the IRFU was supportive of the Governments' need to protect public health in relation to the Coronavirus.

"We were then advised, formally, that The National Public Health Emergency team has determined that the series of matches should not proceed, in the interests of Public Health.

"The IRFU is happy to comply with this instruction.

"We will immediately begin to work with our Six Nations partners to look at the possibility of rescheduling the matches and would hope to have an update on this in the coming days."

Last weekend saw four football matches in Serie A postponed, including Inter's clash with Sampdoria as part of measures to prevent the spread of the virus in Italy.

Inter's Europa League meeting with Ludogorets will be contested behind closed doors on Thursday.

Additionally, this weekend's scheduled Pro14 rugby games between Parma-based club Zebre and Ospreys and Benetton Treviso and Ulster will not go ahead.

Ireland suffered their first defeat of the tournament as they were beaten 24-12 by England at Twickenham last Sunday. 

They are four points behind leaders France in the table. Italy have lost each of their three games and appear destined for another wooden spoon.

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