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."

Zebre and Benetton Treviso have each had their Pro14 fixtures for this weekend postponed due to the threat posed by the coronavirus.

Parma-based club Zebre were due to face Ospreys while Treviso were set to host Ulster.

However, both fixtures will now have to be rearranged, with restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, known officially as Covid-19, forcing the games to be called off.

There have been 209 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Italy, with the death toll officially rising to five on Monday.

A Pro14 statement read: "Both Guinness PRO14 fixtures set to take place in Italy this weekend have been postponed due to the restrictions enforced by national and local authorities dealing with the threat posed by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

"The current restrictions are in place until Sunday, March 1, 2020 and PRO14 Rugby will remain in contact with the FIR [Italian Union], Zebre Rugby Club, Benetton Rugby and World Rugby to monitor situation on a daily basis."

Four Serie A football matches were postponed on Sunday, including Inter's clash with Sampdoria.

Saturday's scheduled Serie B match between Ascoli and Cremonese was postponed and up to 88 amateur football games were also called off.

Ulster and Glasgow Warriors both claimed victories on Saturday to keep themselves in pole position for a place in the Pro14 play-off quarter-finals.

Second in Conference A, Ulster bounced back from an away defeat at Ospreys last time out as they ran out 20-10 winners over Cheetahs.

Tries from Tom O'Toole and Robert Baloucoune proved enough for Ulster to claim their eighth win of the season and maintain their unbeaten run at home in all competitions this campaign.

Clayton Blommetjies drove over for Cheetahs with 15 minutes remaining, but the visitors did not have enough to set up a grandstand finish.

Glasgow, meanwhile, moved up to third in Conference A with a 30-19 comeback victory over Dragons, who took the lead through a Rhodri Williams try in the first minute.

The Warriors swiftly hit back via Tim Swinson and Grant Stewart to take a 10-point lead into the break.

Williams got his second for Dragons while Stewart doubled his tally for the home side and Huw Jones secured the bonus point after being dropped by Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.

Ashton Hewitt's try brought Dragons back into contention but Mesu Dolokoto's late score made sure of a third straight win for Glasgow.

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. 

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.

Saracens kept their European Champions Cup defence alive despite Rhys Carre's early red card at Ospreys, while Clermont Auvergne, Toulouse and Exeter Chiefs booked quarter-final spots.

Prop Carre was shown a straight red card for a shoulder-led tackle on Dan Evans just four minutes in, but the reigning champions went on to claim a crucial 22-15 triumph at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

Fly-half Manu Vunipola was successful with his six efforts from the tee, which consisted of five penalties and the conversion of Alex Lewington's try off Richard Wigglesworth's box kick.

Sarries consequently moved up to second in Pool 4 and three points behind Racing 92, who face Munster on Sunday.

A battling 31-31 draw with Glasgow Warriors was sufficient for Exeter to reach the last eight for just the second time in their history, with only the crossbar denying them the win via a 60-yard Stuart Hogg penalty beyond the 80th minute against his former club.

Tommy Seymour touched down in the opening minute as the Warriors surged into an early 14-3 lead, but Matt Kvesic's double helped ensure the Chiefs got a bonus point and progressed as Pool 2 winners.

Second-half tries from Alivereti Raka and George Moala led Clermont from behind to a 29-13 win at home to Ulster, the Top 14 side taking control of Pool 3.

Toulouse guaranteed a last-eight berth by winning 21-7 at Connacht. Jerome Kaino, Julien Marchand and Pita Ahki cross for the visitors, who were reduced to 13 men in the closing stages when Zack Holmes saw red for a dangerous tackle after Yoann Huget was sent to the sin bin.

Gloucester lost Danny Cipriani to injury after 12 minutes but remained in contention to advance as one of the three best runners-up with a 29-6 bonus-point win against Montpellier.

Ben Morgan, Louis Rees-Zammit and Todd Gleave marked their returns to the starting line-up with tries, the latter coming after Paul Willemse was shown a yellow card for collapsing the maul.

John Cooney claimed an 18-point haul as Ulster beat Munster 38-17 and the Scarlets edged a derby win over Cardiff Blues to go top of Pro14 Conference B on Friday.

Ulster followed up their 35-3 thumping of Connacht with another commanding performance at Kingspan, outscoring Munster by five tries to two to sit six points behind Conference A leaders Leinster in second place.

Scrum-half Cooney made a statement on a night in which he came up against Ireland's first-choice scrum-half Conor Murray, while it proved to be a miserable first start of the season for fit-again Munster fly-half Joey Carbery.

Shane Daly's try put Munster, beaten by champions Leinster last time out, in front but Cooney and Robert Baloucoune crossed at the other end, both scores converted by Cooney after he was also on target with a penalty.

Carbery's penalty reduced the deficit to 17-10 at the break, but Ulster ran away with it in the second half to maintain their unbeaten home record in the competition this season, Matty Rea, Stuart McCloskey and Jacob Stockdale touching down in a bonus-point triumph.

Gareth Davies scored his 50th Scarlets try as the Welsh region won 16-14 at Cardiff Arms Park to replace Munster at the summit. 

Davies reached the landmark in style in the first half with a stunning solo score and Leigh Halfpenny scored the other points for the visitors from the tee as tries from Owen Lane and Josh Adams proved to be in vain for the Blues.

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.

Racing 92 moved six points clear at the top of Pool 4 by beating Ospreys 40-27 to record their ninth successive home pool win in the European Champions Cup.

The 2017-18 runners up were without Teddy Thomas, the competition's leading try-scorer, but Racing's two wings - Louis Dupichot and Juan Imhoff - scored three of their team's six tries to shine in the absence of their key man.

The French side had a 40-5 lead just 15 minutes into the second half and eased off as a result, with Ospreys scoring four of their five tries in the closing 23 minutes.

With the bonus-point win, Racing opened up a six-point gap above Munster, who face reigning champions Saracens on Saturday.

Luke Morgan's try saw Ospreys get on the board first but Dupichot, capitalising on a charged-down kick, and Imhoff, intercepting a wayward pass to run in, turned the game on its head.

The two wings combined again for Imhoff's second and full-back Simon Zebo secured the bonus point before half-time. 

Replacement Georges-Henri Colombe barged over after picking the ball up from the back of a ruck for a fifth Racing try and Yoan Tanga was similarly unstoppable from close range shortly after.

Ospreys salvaged some pride and made the scoreline more respectable, though, Lesley Klim handing off Zebo en route to his first try, with the wing adding a second score late on after Luke Price and Shaun Venter had also gone over. 

John Cooney scored 19 points to take his tally for the season to a tournament-leading 54 as Ulster defeated Harlequins 34-10 to move six points clear in Pool 3.

Ireland scrum-half Cooney contributed a try in each half, three conversions and an early penalty, with Ulster becoming the first team to win four games in this season's competition.

Luke Marshall, Matt Faddes and Tom O'Toole were Ulster's other try-scorers, Stephan Lewies providing Quins' only five-pointer.

Leinster made it 10 wins from 10 to start the season as they routed Northampton Saints 43-16 in the European Champions Cup to move five points clear at the top of Pool 1.

The Irish province, beaten in last season's final by Saracens, ran in seven tries to beat Premiership leaders Saints, who came into this game having won both of their first two games in this competition.

Three Dan Biggar penalties, added to a try from Ahsee Tuala, meant Northampton led 16-14 with two minutes remaining in the first half.

However, Andrew Porter dotted down for Leinster's third try, following earlier scores from James Lowe and Rhys Ruddock, to ensure the visitors were leading 19-16 at the interval.

Northampton then failed to score a second-half point, while Cian Healy, Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath and Ed Byrne all crossed in Leinster's handsome victory.

Ulster moved top of Pool 3 as John Cooney's 79th-minute penalty earned them a 25-24 success over Harlequins.

Both sides scored three tries apiece, Elia Elia going over twice for Quins, but Cooney kept his cool from the 10-metre line to seal the win for Ulster.

Defending champions Saracens were beaten 10-3 by Munster to suffer their second loss in Pool 4.

Peter O'Mahony crossed for the game's only try in the 31st minute, with all the points scored prior to the interval, and the only sour moment for Munster came in the 82nd minute when Arno Botha was dismissed for dangerous play.

Teddy Thomas accounted for two of Racing 92's six tries in their 40-19 rout of Ospreys, who were left to rue Dan Evans' red card after just 37 seconds.

The full-back was given his marching orders for kicking Thomas in the face as he collected a high ball, and Ospreys never recovered.

Elsewhere, Lyon beat Benetton Treviso 28-0, while Glasgow Warriors edged past La Rochelle 27-24.

Munster's three-match winning streak was halted on Friday as the Pro14 Group B leaders were edged out 18-16 by Edinburgh.

Matt Scott's try and accurate kicking from Jaco van der Walt had visitors Edinburgh 10-0 up by the 20th minute, yet Munster fought back to level the scores heading into the break.

Full debutant Ben Healey kicked five points in Munster's first-half comeback, and two more penalties after the break had the home side 16-10 up.

However, Simon Hickey's penalty moved Edinburgh to within touching distance, with Eroni Sau's try ultimately proving decisive for Richard Cockerill's side as the visitors claimed their first win in Cork since 2004.

Elsewhere, Ulster returned to winning ways in style as they beat Scarlets 29-5 thanks to an exceptional first-half display.

Having been defeated by Munster last time out, Ulster made light work of Scarlets - who are second in Group B - by running in three tries inside the opening 16 minutes.

Robert Baloucoune added a fourth try by the 27th minute, after Uzair Cassiem had been sent to the sin bin, and though Scarlets did grab a consolation try, it was Ulster who had the final say when Matt Faddes went over.

John Cooney scored 13 points, including a superb second-half try, to help Ulster record a hard-fought 18-13 European Champions Cup win over Clermont Auvergne on Friday.

The Pro14 side went ahead inside the opening minute with a penalty, setting the tone for an impressive first-half performance that saw Jordi Murphy cross following a rolling maul at a line-out.

Cooney added the conversion as well as a further penalty before the break, with the only response from Clermont coming from the boot of Greig Laidlaw, making it 13-3 at the midway stage of the contest.

Scotland international Laidlaw landed a second penalty to cut the gap only for Ulster to reply with a try from Cooney that saw the scrum-half hack on his own kick over the top before diving on the loose ball.

Clermont made it a nervy finish by forcing a penalty try with nine minutes remaining, though they were forced to settle for a losing bonus point. Ulster, meanwhile, top Pool 3 after recording back-to-back triumphs in Europe.

Garry Ringrose scored a hat-trick as last season's runners-up Leinster beat Benetton 33-19 and Clermont Auvergne thrashed Harlequins in the European Champions Cup on Saturday.

Leinster were beaten by Saracens in the final in May, but the 2018 Champions Cup holders started their quest to regain the trophy with a bonus-point Pool 1 win at the RDS Arena.

Ringrose was the star of the show, the Ireland centre crossing twice inside the first 14 minutes and completing his treble after the break.

Ronan Kelleher also touched down on his European debut before Johnny Sexton rounded off a slick move early in the second half, the Ireland fly-half also adding six points with the boot.

Tries from Dean Budd, Epalahame Faiva and Luca Sperandio were in vain as Benetton were second best in the all-Pro 14 encounter.

Challenge Cup holders Clermont hammered Quins 53-21 in the Pool 2 clash at Stade Marcel Michelin.

Alivereti Raka and Peceli Yato grabbed doubles as the Top 14 side scored seven tries, blowing Paul Gustard's side away.

John Cooney made amends for an incredible missed penalty by slotting over the winning points from the tee to give Ulster a 17-16 success in the other Pool 2 match at Bath.

Exeter Chiefs are the early Pool 2 leaders following a 31-12 bonus-point win at La Rochelle, while DTH Van Der Merwe scored Glasgow Warriors' only try in a 13-7 home triumph over Sale Sharks.

Munster opened their European campaign with a 32-13 Pool 4 defeat of the Ospreys on their travels, Keith Earls and Andrew Conway among their four try-scorers.

Andrew Conway marked his return from the Rugby World Cup in real style as he delivered a decisive try in Munster's 22-16 Pro14 win over Ulster.

Conway, a member of Ireland's squad in Japan, scoring three World Cup tries, was back in club action for Conference B leaders Munster on Saturday.

His side had been in control at the break, leading 15-6 thanks to tries from CJ Stander and Rory Scannell, but an Ulster fightback had them in front by a point with less than 20 minutes remaining.

Then Conway stepped up and burst through the centre of the Ulster team, tearing away from a pair of attempted tackles from recovering defenders to dot down for the winner.

Munster had beaten Cardiff Blues in Conway's absence last week, but the Welsh side ended a four-match losing run against Cheetahs.

An action-packed encounter saw four cards, with Cheetahs reduced to 14 men after just 14 minutes as Jasper Wiese was dismissed with dangerous play.

Fourteen points from the boot of Jarrod Evans, who ended the match in the sin bin, proved the difference in a 30-17 success.

Scott van Breda was similarly influential as Southern Kings got their first victory of the season, winning 16-14 at Ospreys thanks to the full-back's 11 points.

Zebre remain winless, though, after going down 31-7 to Glasgow Warriors, with George Horne scoring twice.

Scarlets edged out Benetton 20-17 in the late game after Dan Jones dispatched a penalty with the last kick of the match.

Leinster and Glasgow Warriors both ran in 50 points as they claimed emphatic Pro14 victories over the Dragons and Southern Kings respectively.

Group A leaders Leinster have made a fantastic start to the season and continued their fine form with a 50-15 triumph at the RDS Arena to make it five wins from five.

Michael Bent started things off early for Leinster, who never looked likely to relinquish their lead over the Dragons, which stood at 19-8 by half-time.

Harry Byrne – on his first Leinster start – also got in on the act, with the fly-half also kicking five conversions, with tries from Dave Kearney, Ronan Kelleher and James Lowe setting the stage for Hugh O'Sullivan's double to complete the rout.

Glasgow, meanwhile, will be hoping their 50-0 demolition of Southern Kings can kick-start what has been an indifferent campaign so far.

Warriors coach Dave Rennie has been identified by New Zealand as a possible replacement for Steve Hansen, but three defeats out of four matches had left Glasgow languishing in the lower reaches of Group A.

Rennie's side responded in force, however, running in five tries in the first half before adding a further three – including a penalty try – after the restart as their South African opponents wilted. 

Behind Leinster in the Group A standings are Ulster, who came from behind to overcome lowly Zebre 22-7 in Friday's other match.

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