Minister for Health Simon Harris has announced that he will be seeking the postponement of the Ireland-Italy Six Nations game that was scheduled for 7 March in Dublin due to the spread of Coronavirus.
More than 320 cases of the COVID-19 virus have been confirmed in Italy and 11 people have died.
Although there have been no cases of infection in Ireland so far, Minister Harris said the risk of having rugby fans travel from Italy and congregate at the 50,000-seater Aviva stadium would be too great.
"We've taken a decision in relation to the Ireland-Italy rugby game which was due to be held in Dublin on 7 March," the minister told RTÉ News.
"The very clear view of the Public Health Emergency team is that this game should not go ahead, that it would constitute a significant risk because a very large number of people would be travelling from what is now an affected region.
"My department will be contacting the IRFU in relation to this.
"I know it will come as a great disappointment to many but it is important we make decisions in relation to public health above and beyond all other considerations."
Minister for Health Simon Harris has said the Ireland v Italy Six Nations game scheduled for Dublin next month should not go ahead due to the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy pic.twitter.com/ibpgpI9RlQ— RTÉ News (@rtenews) February 25, 2020
The last Six Nations game involving Ireland to be postponed was in 2012 when the away game with France was called off shortly before kick-off due to a frozen pitch at Saint-Denis.
Back in 2001, three of Ireland's Six Nations games were postponed until the autumn due to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease.
The Irish Rugby Football Union said it would be seeking an urgent meeting with Minister Harris "as to the specific reasoning behind calling for the cancellation of the match in the context of the Government's overall travel policy to and from Italy and other affected countries".
"Until such time as the IRFU has had contact with the Minister and gets an understanding of the government’s strategic policy on travel to and from Ireland and the cancellation of mass gatherings, it is not in a position to comment further," it added in a statement.
The Six Nations said in a statement that is aware of the Minister's "recommendation" and that it will remain "in close contact" withe the IRFU regarding the outcome of their discussions with the government.