The understandable news that there will be no match against Italy next weekend will have come as a massive blow to all three Irish teams.

For differing reasons all will have wanted to get back out on the pitch. The Under-20s are flying through this year's Six Nations in much the same fashion as last year's, albeit with an almost completely different squad.

I watched the game in the presence of Mick Galwey and our children and we were all glued to it, apart from the occasional flick over to the Munster versus Zebre match.

There was no competition in terms of excitement or enthusiasm. Whatever head coach Noel McNamara, his backroom team and squad have should be bottled and sold.

The absence of the Italian game denies this magnificent squad the opportunity to march on with what should then be a Grand Slam decider against France on St Patrick's weekend.

The strength and success of our U20 squad the last two seasons and the elevation of its standout players to the senior ranks in their provinces bodes really well for the future of the male game here.

Ryan Baird excelled again on Friday night for Leinster just 12 short months from his successful role with last year's squad.

For the women, last weekend represented a huge test and to be fair one which they stood tall against but ultimately were never going to win. It was somewhat ominous when Sarah Hunter, the England captain and number eight, burst over from a scrum in the third minute.

Ireland battled well against England in the second half

This squad of players have certainly developed in the last year and had to gather themselves to face the full force of England in the opening half. However England had the bonus point try scored by half-time.

The conditions looked really difficult and the wind did make the line-out a lottery. England secured enough line-out ball to cause problems in the first half.

Ireland used the no maul trick to good effect initially to stop the powerful drive from England but the English are streets ahead in every facet and checked with ref Holly Davidson and opted not to transfer the ball and drive on the first receiver, Ireland then had no match for their power.

The early loss of the powerful force that is Lindsay Peat within the first quarter will also have unsettled the team. Laura Feely came on and will have benefited from the increased exposure at this level.

With the score at 22-0 by half-time Ireland were staring down the barrel of a significant loss but a mixture of heroic defending and inaccuracies on behalf of the English meant that the scoreline was respectable at the end and the Irish girls will have gained a lot from that.

They really needed to be able to build on that defensive performance against Italy next weekend as it would be a true measure of where they are now 12 months since the Italians were victorious. A result that marked a low point in recent years and I say that with no disrespect to the vastly improved Italians.

They started this Six Nations with a gritty 19-15 victory over Wales but could not cope with the French, a team the Italians had also beaten comprehensively last year 31-12, losing out 45-10 this time round.

The Italian women will be even more frustrated that next week's game has been cancelled, as their match against Scotland also fell foul to the coronavirus.

Changing up the men's team is the right thing to do now at this stage of the Six Nations and at this point in a World Cup cycle

The senior men’s team, while outwardly acknowledging that the right decision has been made about the Italian game, inwardly will be ruing the missed opportunity to right the wrongs of the English game.

By now those of you reading this article will probably have read, listened to and viewed so much you could well be sick of opinion on what went wrong and how to fix it.

Spare a thought then for the players, some of whom were trolled on social media, where comments were far from acceptable from keyboard warriors behind a Twitter or Facebook handle.

I’m obviously full of opinions and you are reading them but I would like to think I am balanced and objective. This is based on the fact that I lived through it previously as a player, a partner and wife.

I have documented before that my husband never read any article or listened to negative press but I did. The players know when they play badly and have acknowledged the same this week.

My thoughts on the missed opportunity though is that not only would it have given the team as a whole an opportunity to bounce back, it would also have given the management an opportunity to change things up, not because certain players did not perform to their maximum, not as a knee jerk reaction to a chastening defeat but because it is the right thing to do now at this stage of the Six Nations and at this point in a World Cup cycle.

Finally the cancellation of the fixtures next weekend brings back bittersweet memories for me of the foot-and-mouth cancellations in 2001. I was captain of the Irish Women’s team that season as Susie Fleming was out with a broken collarbone.

It was one of the highlights of my career to captain my country and the emotional energy that produces cannot be underestimated.

We played two games, the second against France was abandoned after 60 minutes in Clontarf due to malfunctioning lights, I think, and then the foot-and-mouth crisis ended our involvement.

Fiona with her husband John and daughters Sally, left, and Roisín 

The men’s club season continued for a couple of matches before a hiatus and, returning at the end of March, when domestic competition was allowed again. It gave myself and my Shannon team-mates an opportunity to support the men’s side on a Saturday in Thomond Park.

Well let’s just say that while the foot-and-mouth might have caused a national sporting and economic crisis it was not all bad as my visits to Thomond Park produced a result that has lasted the test of time, endured many ups and downs, and continues to thrive.

My advice: Next weekend head out to your local rugby club, support your team, be it boys, girls, women or men.

Club rugby is still the heartbeat of the game, where true supporters live and breathe, you’d never know the possible outcomes, no face masks required.