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article imageFrance's Six Nations clash with Scotland off after new player virus case

By AFP     Feb 25, 2021 in World

France's Six Nations match against Scotland was postponed on Thursday after another Les Bleus player tested positive for coronavirus ahead of the fixture, taking the tally of confirmed cases among the French squad to 16.

Tournament organisers said that a new date for the match, which was due to take place at the Stade de France on Sunday, would be announced "in due course" after having previously announced on Wednesday that it would go ahead.

"The Six Nations testing oversight group met today to review the situation in the French camp. They unanimously recommended the postponement of the France v Scotland match," the Six Nations said.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) did not name the latest player to contract the virus, but they were already without star scrum-half Antoine Dupont, captain Charles Ollivon and coach Fabien Galthie who contracted the virus following their February 14 win over Ireland in Dublin.

France's Thursday training had been cancelled and the entire French group placed in isolation just three days before the fixture's original date.

"Following the RT-PCR tests carried out this Wednesday, February 24 in the evening and the appearance of a positive case within the squad of players, the FFR medical committee met this morning and decided to suspend training today," the FFR said in a statement.

"The entire group is in isolation in accordance with health protocol. The FFR is in close contact with the Six Nations committee."

Apart from Ollivon and Dupont, France were also without backs Arthur Vincent, Gabin Villiere and Brice Dulin as well as the entire front row of Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand and Mohamed Haouas.

- 'Difficult to know' -

Scotland were eager to play the game as scheduled, with a postponement to next week potentially seeing 10 away players miss out due to their commitments with non-Scottish clubs.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said in a statement released by the Scottish Rugby Union on Thursday that it was "disappointing" not to be able to fulfil the fixture in its scheduled slot.

"Throughout this tournament, and the previous Autumn Nations Cup, we have worked hard to maintain strict Covid protocols which have enabled us to select our strongest possible teams for these important international fixtures," said Townsend.

"We will wait to see what options are available to play this match against France, but it remains our position that we want to have all our eligible players available to us for that fixture, so we can compete to the level we would have done this weekend."

On Wednesday, French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu also demanded FFR president Bernard Laporte launch an investigation into the outbreak.

The minister asked health officials to examine "how the chain of contaminations was formed" within the squad.

"It's always difficult to know the origin... I would love to know, to tell you the truth," said Laporte to France Info on Thursday morning.

"This is something that concerns me and I would like to know really if anyone is to blame or not, quite simply."

Les Bleus, bidding to win the Six Nations title for the first time since 2010, are sitting top of the table after beating Italy and Ireland in their opening two games.

Galthie's side are ahead of second-placed Wales, the only other team with a chance of completing the Grand Slam, on points difference.

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