Ford admits tackling virus is more vital than England tackling Wales

‘There are rugby games and then there are things that are a little bit more important’: George Ford admits tackling virus is more significant than England tackling Wales

England are coming to terms with the premature end to their Six Nations campaign but George Ford admitted the postponement of rugby matches is insignificant in the context of the global coronavirus crisis.

As revealed by Sportsmail on Wednesday, the national team’s clash with Italy in Rome on March 14 has been postponed after an intervention by the Italian government, as part of their attempts to contain a mass outbreak of the virus in the country.

Championship officials confirmed yesterday the fixture had been postponed, with the intention being to reschedule it — and the postponed Ireland v Italy match — to later in the year.

England fly-half George Ford admitted the postponement of rugby matches is insignificant

After naming his side to face Wales at Twickenham, head coach Eddie Jones was at pains to emphasise it was business as usual for his squad. However, despite their determination to stay focused, they are aware of the news dominating the agenda outside their camp.

Ford, the England fly-half, said: ‘There are rugby games and then there are other things going on in the world that are a little bit more important.

‘For us, it’s about concentrating on the game on Saturday. We’ll be told what the right thing to do is both inside and outside the camp because it’s obviously something that needs to be dealt with.

‘There are important things other than Wales. You speak about family all the time. There are things that happen in your life all the time. When we were in Japan there was the typhoon.

England’s Owen Farrell (left) and George Ford during training session at Pennyhill Park

‘There are bigger things than rugby and sport that are more critical than us playing in a rugby game at the weekend. But this needs to be dealt with and we’ll do what is right.’

England are keeping their attention fixed on a dangerous Wales side ahead of Saturday’s contest, but Ford added: ‘Obviously we are aware of what’s going on. There are a lot of things out of our control, so there’s not so much we can do about it.

‘We will deal with Saturday and whatever happens beyond that, we will find out.

‘I’m pretty sure the people making the decisions and the coaches here will plan accordingly. As a player, there is not much we can do about things anyway, other than make sure we are ready for Saturday.

Head coach Eddie Jones was at pains to emphasise it was business as usual for his squad

‘It has been a completely normal week, to be honest. We went out for food together last night. In terms of hygiene stuff, not much has changed because we want to be pretty red-hot on that anyway.

‘It’s just reminders, more than anything, to keep good habits around camp.’

Owen Farrell, the England captain, was reluctant to be drawn into a discussion about anything beyond the encounter with Wales, saying: ‘There is stuff going on everywhere at the minute, so of course I keep an eye on the news, but I find it strange talking about that sort of stuff when this game is on Saturday.

‘There are other people who are a lot smarter than we are that make the decisions around that sort of stuff.’

A statement from Six Nations organisers confirmed the postponement of the three Italy v England matches — senior men’s, women’s and Under 20s — and referred to an intention to ‘complete all 15 games across all three championships when time allows’.

As it stands, all other Six Nations matches are due to go ahead as planned — including the France-Ireland fixture in Paris on March 14, when the hosts may be striving to clinch a Grand Slam.

In response, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: ‘We understand the decision to postpone all three England matches against Italy, taken in the interests of overall public health. We know this will be disappointing for all the fans who were set to travel next weekend and we will update you with more information when we can.’

England Rugby Travel, the union’s official travel agent, confirmed after the announcement that all fans would be offered full refunds on match tickets and travel packages to Rome — or the option to switch them to the rescheduled fixture date, when that is finalised.

The RFU urged last night anyone who has been advised by medical experts to self-isolate not to attend tomorrow’s match.

Special arrangements will be in place at Twickenham, with hand sanitisers and personal hygiene posters around the stadium.

Medical staff will be available to assist spectators and other matchday staff given guidance about coronavirus symptoms and preventative measures.


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