The Women’s Six Nations is set to be postponed as a result of the escalating coronavirus crisis at a time when uncertainty continues to hover over the men’s event.
Tournament organisers have been forced to concede defeat in attempts to stage the competition in its traditional February and March window, with April and May now pencilled in as an alternative, the PA news agency understands.
It means England will be denied the chance to mount their title defence until later in the year as the challenges over holding it alongside the men’s Six Nations, which is due to start on February 6, prove insurmountable.
Only the champions are fully professional, with France semi-professional and the remaining sides mostly amateur, creating difficulties over testing and bubbles at a time when lockdowns are in place across Europe.
A schedule had yet to be published and the announcement is expected this week.
There is still hope that the men’s competition will take place as planned, despite France facing a possible travel ban from their government.
Organisers are attempting to convince French authorities that it can be played safely, even allowing for the the growing number of Covid-19 cases caused by the new strain first discovered in Kent.
Talks between the Six Nations, unions and French government will be ongoing throughout the week.
It comes as the fate of the European Champions and Challenge Cups hangs in the balance after the Top 14 teams were “invited” by Paris to cease cross-border competition.
Next weekend begins the first of the pool stage’s final two rounds and EPCR will discover early this week what course of action France’s clubs will take.
If they withdraw, the EPCR is likely to temporarily suspend the competitions.
“We are working hard to hold the tournament as scheduled in each country, with Covid protocols further reinforced from the October to November period that saw the successful conclusion of the Six Nations 2020 and the Autumn Nations Cup,” a Six Nations spokesperson said.
French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte is confident that the championship will go ahead as scheduled, using the blueprint of the recent Autumn Nations Cup.
“It’s a puzzle, but I think we shouldn’t be alarmed about the Six Nations tournament,” Laporte told French radio station RMC.
“The tournament will be played with a health protocol decided by the government. Everything went well in the autumn and it will be the same for the upcoming Six Nations tournament. I’m not that worried.”