Six Nations organisers are closely monitoring the coronavirus situation in Italy ahead of the Azzurri's scheduled visit to Ireland in two weeks’ time.
Italy has reported seven deaths due to Covid-19, while the Department of Foreign Affairs is advising Irish citizens not to travel to a number of Italian towns, mostly in the north of the country, which have had travel restrictions placed on them.
Andy Farrell’s side, who have won two games from three in the competition so far, are due to welcome the Italians to Dublin on 7 March, with the Women’s and Under-20s Six Nations games also taking place over that weekend.
The Women’s Six Nations match between Italy and Scotland, which was due to take place yesterday in Legnano, a suburb of Milan, was postponed, while Ulster's planned Pro14 clash against Benetton in Treviso next weekend has also been called off.
In a statement released to RTÉ Sport, a spokesperson said: "Six Nations is monitoring this situation very closely and is in regular contact with the FIR [Italian union] and all other Unions and Federations as well as the relevant local authorities and health organisations."
Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris said that "big decisions" will have to be made in the interest of public safety.
"The rugby game is something that needs considerable consideration," said Harris on Sunday night
"This situation is evolving. The weekend’s activities have shown that there is still an awful lot unknown about the coronavirus and about the path it might take.
"There will be some big decisions that have to be made in the coming days including mass gatherings.
"Most particularly, I’m thinking of the Ireland-Italy rugby game that’s due to take place in the not-too distant future."
The IRFU says the Six Nations games against Italy in Ireland are set to go ahead as scheduled.
The union says it will follow Government advice on the matter.
In 2001 the game between Ireland and England at Lansdowne Road was postponed due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease and eventually played that October.
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