DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland coach Andy Farrell said there were bigger things than finishing the Six Nations competition as the Irish government considers a renewed call by the country’s health chiefs for a second national lockdown due to the spread of COVID-19.
Ireland are due to resume their Six Nations campaign at home to Italy in eight days’ time before finishing the tournament that has been delayed by seven months in France on Oct. 31.
The Italy game can go ahead under Dublin’s current Level 3 COVID-19 constraints and also if the measures move up to Level 4. However Ireland’s top doctors have called for a jump to the highest stage, Level 5, which would ban elite sport.
Ministers rejected what was then a surprise recommendation by health chiefs for Level 5 restrictions 11 days ago and are due to discuss the current advice on Saturday.
“There’s bigger things than finishing the Six Nations,” Farrell, who took over as Ireland coach after last year’s World Cup, told a news conference on Friday.
“If that (national lockdown) is what the government feel is needed for the health and safety of the country, we’ll be more than happy to follow that.
“But obviously, we’ll be doing everything to keep our side of things nice and clean and we’ll wait for the advice.”
Ireland’s Six Nations clash with Italy became the first big novel coronavirus sporting casualty in the country in March.
Both teams have only played three matches compared to the four completed by the other sides. A bonus point win for the hosts would put Ireland one point ahead of England and France going into the final round of games.
“I’d love to play the games. I’d love to get the Six Nations finished and play in the Autumn Nations Cup,” Farrell said, referring to the new eight-team international tournament due to start on Nov. 13.
“We’ve waited for international rugby to come back. It’s a nice tonic for the whole country... but, as I said, there’s bigger things than rugby and we’ll do the right thing by the country.”
Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Ken Ferris
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