The Premiership has been suspended for five weeks and the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Premiership Rugby's decision followed new guidance from the United Kingdom government on Monday.

British prime minister Boris Johnson encouraged people to avoid mass gatherings and all "non-essential" travel and contact with others.

"The safety of our fans, players and staff is our first priority, and we would like to wish all of those who are affected our heartfelt best wishes and a very speedy recovery," a Premiership Rugby statement read.

"We'll continue to work closely with DCMS [the Departure for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] and Public Health England, and to follow the advice of medical experts, and work with our clubs to help them to support their own wider communities at this time."

The decision to call off the European rugby season was taken during a conference call on Monday.

It means the matches in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5 will not now go ahead as planned, although organisers hope to rearrange the fixtures for later dates.

In a statement, the board of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said: "While respecting all further directives by governments and local authorities, EPCR, in conjunction with the relevant leagues and unions, remains committed to trying to find a solution which will enable it to complete the 2019-20 Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments at such a time as that aligns with preventative measures undertaken by an overwhelming majority of sport's governing bodies and tournament organisers in Europe.  

"EPCR's priority is the health and welfare of players and club staff, and an update regarding the knockout stages of the tournaments will be communicated to all stakeholders as soon as practicable."

Leinster ran in nine tries as they thrashed Glasgow Warriors 55-19 on Friday to stretch their winning Pro14 run to 13 games.

Ryan Baird and Dave Kearney both scored hat-tricks as Leo Cullen's runaway Conference A leaders cut loose at the RDS, putting the Warriors to the sword.

Reigning champions Leinster wrapped up the bonus point by half-time as the repeat of the 2019 final proved to be lopsided, putting the victors 20 points clear of nearest rivals Ulster in the standings.

Glasgow, who grabbed tries through Tommy Seymour, Kyle Steyn and Alex Allan, remain third.

In Conference B, table-topping Edinburgh won in contrasting fashion, battling their way to a 14-6 triumph over Cardiff Blues.

George Taylor scored the only try of the contest in the first half, charging down a clearance as he created the opportunity for himself.

Simon Hickey kicked the conversion and also slotted over two penalties, with Cardiff's only points coming from the boot of Jason Tovey.

Ireland prop Cian Healy will play no further part in the Six Nations due to a hip injury.

The Leinster stalwart was withdrawn after suffering the blow during a 24-12 defeat to England at Twickenham on Sunday

Healy has been ruled out of the clash with Italy at the Aviva Stadium on March 7 and will not face leaders France in Paris on the final day of the tournament.

Pro14 champions Leinster will be hoping the 32-year-old is available for a European Champions Cup quarter-final against holders Saracens in Dublin on April 4.

Healy will have to wait to bring up a century of caps, with his appearance against England taking him to 98.

Will Connors, Max Deegan, Chris Farrell, David Kearney, Luke McGrath and Jack O'Donoghue were on Tuesday released from international duty to play for their provinces this weekend.

Defeat to the Rugby World Cup runners-up last weekend ended Ireland's hopes of winning a Grand Slam and leaves them level with England, four points adrift of leaders France.

 

Leinster set a new Pro14 record as they claimed a 12th straight win to maintain their 100 per cent start to the season by beating Ospreys 21-13.

The Conference A leaders and defending champions were made to work for their win, with Cian Kelleher's 75th-minute try eventually settling the contest.

Tommy O'Brien gave Leinster the lead 18 minutes in, yet Ospreys fought back through Luke Price's kicking and Luke Morgan's try.

But after Price had managed to claw the hosts back to within touching distance following Josh Murphy's try for Leinster, Sam Parry's yellow card handed the visitors the initiative, with Kelleher duly wrapping up the win.

Elsewhere, Edinburgh retained their place at the top of Conference B as they claimed a comfortable bonus-point win over Connacht.

Having been 20 points behind by the 33rd minute, visiting Connacht reduced the deficit when Tiernan O'Halloran went over either side of half-time.

Yet Edinburgh rallied – Pierre Schoeman and Duhan van der Merwe putting them in control before a penalty try handed them a bonus point.

The victory keeps them three points clear of Munster, who hammered 14-man Zebre 28-0 in Italy.

Luke Price booted the Ospreys to a stunning 26-24 victory over Ulster and Leinster maintained their 100 per cent Pro14 record by defeating the Cheetahs on Saturday.

The Ospreys had only one Pro14 victory to their name in the competition against Benetton Treviso back in October, but doubled their tally with a shock success as Storm Dennis battered Swansea.

Ulster, second in Conference A behind Leinster, came from 23-10 down to take a one-point lead courtesy of tries from Matt Faddes and Stuart McCloskey, Bill Johnston converting both scores in the space of nine minutes.

Scott Otten had scored a try in each half for the home side after Owen Watkin's five-pointer, but they looked set for more agony until Price split the posts with his third penalty of the match five minutes from time to lift the gloom.

The Leinster juggernaut rolled on at the RDS Arena, where Will Connors grabbed a double and there were also tries for Michael Bent, Ronan Kelleher and Rhys Ruddock in a commanding 36-12 victory.

Luan de Bruin and Aidon Davis crossed for the Cheetahs, third in Conference A, but they were soundly beaten by the defending champions.

Edinburgh completed a double over the Scarlets with a 14-9 win in Llanelli to return to the summit of Conference B, Duhan van der Merwe and Matt Scott scoring the only tries.

Connacht thumped Cardiff Blues 29-0, while the encounter between the Dragons and Treviso, due to be played at Rodney Parade, was called off due to the extreme weather conditions. 

Leinster lock James Ryan has signed a new three-year contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).

Ryan has made a massive impact for Ireland since his first call-up, scoring a try less than a minute into his debut against the United States aged only 20.

The 23-year-old has gone on to win 24 caps and played a huge part in Leinster's 2018 European Champions Cup triumph.

Ryan won back-to-back Pro14 titles in the past two seasons with Leinster and has been billed as a future captain of his country.

"I am delighted to sign an IRFU contract," said Ryan.

"A lot has been packed into the start of my professional career with both Ireland and Leinster, and there has been some great success and a few disappointments, but I am involved in two very exciting squads that want to be challenging for trophies."

David Nucifora, the IRFU high performance director, said: "James is still a young man but he has delivered consistent high-level performances for both Ireland and Leinster.  

"He is growing into a leadership role with the national team and has a big future for both Ireland and Leinster."

Ireland centre Garry Ringrose will miss the Six Nations matches against Wales and England with a hand injury.

Ringrose was replaced at half-time in Ireland's 19-12 victory over Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday with a suspected broken finger.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed the Leinster back has since undergone a procedure on his hand and will not be available for selection until they face Italy in Dublin on March 7.

However, the IRFU said Ringrose will "stay connected with the squad as a member of the leadership group".

Uncapped back-rower Will Connors has been added to the Ireland squad ahead of the clash with reigning champions Wales on Saturday.

Tadhg Furlong's fitness will be monitored after he complained of calf tightness against Scotland, while Dave Kilcoyne and Caelan Doris will follow graduated return to play protocols as part of the HIA process.

 

Ireland squad to face Wales:

Backs: Will Addison, Bundee Aki, Billy Burns, Ross Byrne, Andrew Conway, John Cooney, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Stuart McCloskey, Luke McGrath, Conor Murray, Johnny Sexton, Jacob Stockdale.

Forwards: Will Connors, Max Deegan, Ultan Dillane, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Dave Heffernan, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Jack McGrath, Jack O'Donoghue, Peter O'Mahony, Tom O'Toole, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, CJ Stander, Devin Toner, Josh van der Flier.

Caelan Doris will make his Ireland debut when Andy Farrell's side open their Six Nations campaign against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

The Leinster number eight will play from the start, meaning CJ Stander switches to blindside flanker and former Lions captain Peter O'Mahony begins on the bench.

Leinster's Jordan Larmour has overcome a foot injury to beat Will Addison to the starting spot at full-back, with Jacob Stockdale and Andrew Conway the two wings for Ireland.

New captain Johnny Sexton starts at fly-half alongside Munster's Conor Murray, who is selected over John Cooney at scrum-half.

Rob Herring gets the start at hooker, with Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong picked as the props.

Leinster hooker Ronan Kelleher is the other player who is in line to make his debut, though he starts among the replacements.

Ireland finished third behind Wales and England in last year's Six Nations before suffering a humbling defeat to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, meaning a disappointing end to a highly successful era under Joe Schmidt.
 

Ireland XV to play Scotland: Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton (c), Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Peter O'Mahony, John Cooney, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw.

Captain Johnny Sexton and wing Jordan Larmour are expected to be fit for Ireland's opening game of the Six Nations against Scotland.

Sexton has not featured since early last month due to a knee injury but hopes to play a full part in training on Thursday.

The fly-half is optimistic he will be ready to lead his country when they take on Scotland at the Aviva Stadium a week on Saturday, having been named as skipper for the tournament by new head coach Andy Farrell.

"Everything's been going to plan, so hopefully I'll take a full part in training tomorrow," said Sexton. 

"I've had no setbacks, once everything goes smoothly in training I'll be available for selection. I think everyone wants to be captain, it's an honour that I was asked to do it. 

"Obviously it's a campaign by campaign thing at the moment [being skipper], so we'll see how it goes over the next eight weeks."

Larmour damaged his foot in Leinster's European Champions Cup victory over Benetton last weekend, but Farrell is hopeful the flyer will be available for the opening weekend of the Six Nations.

Farrell said: "We met up yesterday and had a bit of a walk-through so he was able to partake in that. We'll take it day by day, it's not serious but we'll see how it goes.

"Obviously there're some new guys who are going to freshen things up, but it's not just about that, it's a matter of picking people in form."

Saracens will face Leinster in the European Champions Cup quarter-finals - a repeat of last season's final - after the scandal-hit London club finally found something to smile about.

Breaches of Premiership Rugby's salary cap have seen Saracens hit with a severe punishment, with the club told on Saturday they will be demoted from the top tier of English rugby at the end of the season.

Their domestic achievements and their dominance of the Champions Cup, which they have won in three of the past four seasons, have come in for fresh scrutiny since it emerged Saracens had broken the rules.

Director of rugby Mark McCall told his players to set the off-pitch problems aside on Sunday, and a dramatic 27-24 win over Racing 92 proved enough for Saracens to book a last-eight place after Gloucester lost 35-14 to Toulouse later in the day.

Owen Farrell booted a match-winning late penalty for 14-man Saracens, who had Will Skelton sent off in the first half and lost Billy Vunipola to an arm injury.

Two tries from Maro Itoje and one from Mako Vunipola were countered by Racing, whose five-pointers came from Virimi Vakatawa, who dotted down twice, and Louis Dupichot.

Saracens led 17-7 at one stage but were 21-17 behind at the break, turning the game around with Itoje's second try before England captain Farrell nailed a 75th-minute penalty.

At the final whistle, Saracens were not sure of their place in the quarter-finals, with a two-hour wait until that was confirmed.

Racing beat them to top spot in Pool 4, and to grab one of the three last-eight places allocated to the best runners-up Saracens needed Gloucester to fall short against Toulouse.

The Cherry and Whites were well beaten in France, going down by five converted tries to two at Stade Ernest-Wallon, with Romain Ntamack running in two of the Top 14 side's scores.

It means Saracens face another appointment with Leinster, the team they beat 20-10 at St James' Park last May to be crowned European champions.

This time Saracens must travel to Dublin to tackle the 2018 Champions Cup winners.

During Leinster's run to European glory two years ago, Saracens lost away to the Irish outfit in the quarter-finals.

Sunday's other matches involved teams whose run in this competition is over for another year, with Munster beating Ospreys 33-6 and Montpellier grabbing a thrilling 35-29 success against Connacht.

 

Quarter-final line-up (ties to be played on April 3-5):

Clermont Auvergne v Racing 92
Toulouse v Ulster
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints
Leinster v Saracens

Ulster secured a European Champions Cup quarter-final spot with a 22-15 defeat of Bath, while Northampton Saints and Glasgow Warriors stayed in the hunt for qualification on Saturday.

Clermont Auvergne sealed top spot in Pool 3 with a 26-19 victory at Harlequins, but Ulster knew a defeat of Bath would see them through as one of three best-placed runners-up.

The Pro14 side got the job done in the second half after the two sides were level at 7-7 at the break, Robert Baloucoune and Will Addison going over to add to a first-half try from Marcell Coetzee before Billy Burns was on target with a penalty.

Tries from Ruaridh McConnochie and Ross Batty, who was later red-carded for a no-arms tackle on John Cooney, were not enough for Bath to end the competition on a high note.

Northampton did all they could to advance as runners-up with a 36-24 victory at Top 14 high-flyers Lyon in Pool 1.

The Saints will go progress if either Saracens or Gloucester fail to pick up maximum points wins on Sunday after Mike Haywood, Teimana Harrison, Cobus Reinach, George Furbank and James Fish touched down in a bonus-point triumph at Matmut Stade de Gerland.

Glasgow must hope defending champions Sarries, whose relegation from the Premiership at the of the season for persistent salary-cap breaches was announced on Saturday, and Gloucester slip up after demolishing Sale Sharks 45-7 in Pool 2.

Leone Nakarawa set the tone early on with one of six Glasgow tries at the AJ Bell Stadium, where Adam Hastings scored 15 points from the tee.

Leinster made it six victories out of six in Pool 1 with an 18-0 defeat of Benetton Treviso, while Sam Simmonds grabbed a double as Pool 2 winners Exeter Chiefs saw off La Rochelle 33-14 at Sandy Park.

Beleaguered Sarries host Racing 92 on the final day of pool matches reeling from the announcement that they will drop of out of the Premiership, while Gloucester travel to Toulouse.

Leinster maintained their 100 per cent European Champions Cup record with a 42-14 thrashing of Lyon, while Racing 92 left it late to beat Munster and reach the quarter-finals on Sunday.

Last year's runners-up Leinster cemented their spot at the top of Pool 1 with a bonus-point triumph on a day which saw second-placed Northampton Saints produce a comeback to beat Benetton Treviso.

Leinster struggled to shake off Lyon in the first half and only led by seven points at the break, but the Pro14 champions scored 21 points without reply in the second half at the RDS Arena.

Dave Kearney touched down twice, with Josh van der Flier, Max Deegan, Sean Cronin and Andrew Porter getting in on the act in a six-try hammering from Leo Cullen's men.

Leinster have now won nine consecutive pool games for the first time in the competition.

Saints made far harder work of a vital 33-20 bonus-point victory over Treviso, the Premiership side having fallen 17-12 behind heading into the final 25 minutes.

The returning Harry Mallinder, back after more than a year out with a knee injury, got the home side up and running with a try inside five minutes.

However, the rest of the first half belonged to the Italians, who were ahead courtesy of Tommaso Benvenuti's smart score following an interception.

Needing a win to keep their visitors at bay in the race for second spot, Northampton finally sprung to life after the interval as Henry Taylor, Francois van Wyk, Fraser Dingwall and Andy Symons all crossed.

Teddy Iribaren's inventive long-range pass to set up a try for Teddy Thomas was an eye-catching highlight from Racing's dramatic 39-22 Pool 4 home win against Munster.

A second try for recalled France wing Thomas late on was followed by scores from the brilliant Virimi Vakatawa and Juan Imhoff, seeing Racing through and putting Munster down to third with a decisive clash against Saracens to come in the final round of pool matches.

George North opened the scoring for Ospreys on his return from injury on Saturday, but a dramatic finish saw Dragons come out on top in their Pro14 derby clash.

Wales wing North had been out of action since rupturing his hamstring in the Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa in October.

He was fit to start and play 79 minutes for struggling Ospreys, yet his eventual departure came amid a thrilling stretch in which Dragons claimed a 25-18 victory.

North dotted down after 19 minutes following Scott Williams' kick and, although Leon Brown responded in style, Ospreys were in control again as Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler scored in the second half.

They remained in front until the 74th minute, but Rio Dyer's try brought Dragons back into the match, and Adam Warren went over with two minutes remaining to settle it.

Defeat leaves Ospreys still bottom of Conference A with just one win in 10 matches.

Fellow strugglers Zebre found some form at home to Cheetahs.

Charlie Walker scored a pair of tries in a 41-13 success, just Zebre's second of the campaign.

At the other end of the table, Leinster equalled their best ever start to a season with a 10th straight win, defeating Connacht 54-7.

Max Deegan and Garry Ringrose each scored twice, with the table-topping Irish province crossing eight times in all in another dominant victory.

Elsewhere, George Horne went over twice and brother Pete also got on the scoresheet as Glasgow Warriors ran in six tries to claim a 38-19 bonus-point win at Benetton.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh took full advantage of Pieter Scholtz's early dismissal to rout Southern Kings 61-13.

Scholtz saw red for contact to the neck in the 13th minute, and Edinburgh, who trailed at that point, scored the first of their nine tries a minute later in a handsome victory.

Leinster crossed eight times, with Max Deegan and Scott Penny each grabbing a pair of tries, to rout provincial rivals Ulster 54-42 on Friday.

The top two in Pro14's Conference A went head-to-head, but it was scarcely a contest as the leaders eased to an eighth win in eight despite accommodating a late Ulster flurry.

There were five Leinster tries before half-time, with Deegan opening the scoring inside three minutes following a TMO check.

Angus Kernohan hit back, but Penny had two scores in quick succession - either side of Matt Faddes' yellow card - as the hosts pulled clear, soon going over once more through Robbie Henshaw to swiftly clinch the bonus point.

Although Faddes boosted Ulster hopes, a 10-minute spell either side of the interval settled the contest, with Fergus McFadden, Rob Kearney and the jet-heeled Cian Kelleher each marking the scoresheet.

It was largely one-way traffic from that point, with Ulster belatedly allowed to take control, although Deegan's 63rd-minute try ensured there was ample breathing space for Leinster.

A score from Craig Gilroy, two by Greg Jones and another courtesy of Jonny Stewart, along with Josh Murphy's departure to the sin bin, at least saved some face for the beaten visitors.

Leinster have dismissed the suggestion Johnny Sexton could leave at the end of the season for a return to the Top 14.

Reports in France have claimed Top 14 leaders Lyon are hoping to bring former Racing 92 fly-half Sexton in to replace Jonathan Wisniewski, who is said to be considering retirement.

However, Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster moved to put an end to the speculation on Monday.

"There is certainly nothing from our end," said Lancaster.

"Johnny is contracted to Leinster and Ireland until 2021, so the only conversation I have had with Johnny is how can he get better, how he can help Leinster get better and how can he play for Ireland

"I can't see any merit in that [moving]."

Sexton is sidelined with a knee injury and Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said last week he is unlikely to return to action until the start of Ireland's Six Nations campaign.

Leinster became the first side to qualify for the European Champions Cup quarter-finals by defeating Northampton Saints 50-21 in Dublin on Saturday.

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