Following the postponement of the France v Ireland match at the Stade de France on Saturday, the Six Nations have issued a statement to clarify the operational regulations regarding matches being postponed.
In the first instance, the Six Nations Council would like to express regret that thousands of supporters were left disappointed and frustrated by this late postponement last night in Paris.
It is however important to clarify how the tournament operates. The RBS 6 Nations Championship is run annually according to the Operations and Procedures Manual which is the unanimously agreed rules of the Championship.
These are updated annually and are signed up to by each participating Union prior to the commencement of the tournament.
Under the rules the Six Nations Council is responsible for the scheduling of matches, including selection of the date, kick-off time, and venue for each match.
It is then the responsibility of the host Union to stage the match at the agreed time, place and venue. The only change that is allowed to this agreed schedule is subject to the following:
1. It will be for the host Union to decide whether a match is to be postponed or abandoned for health and safety reasons or…
2. It will be for the match referee to decide whether a match is to be postponed (i.e. not started) or abandoned (i.e. stopped once it has begun) due to the condition of the pitch.
There are no other parties that can make a decision to postpone a Six Nations match.
In the circumstances, the Six Nations would like to acknowledge the huge effort the FFR made to try to ensure the game went ahead.
However, with regard to the particular circumstances of the decision in Paris this weekend, the match referee Dave Pearson attended Stade de France on Friday, February 10 at 4pm and carried out an initial pitch inspection with the Six Nations representative, and a representative of the stadium management.
A further pitch inspection was carried out on the referee’s arrival at the stadium on Saturday at 7pm, with the Six Nations representative and the host Union match manager, after the covers were taken off. At that stage the pitch was deemed playable.
The weather conditions deteriorated rapidly and by the time the referee went back on the pitch during the warm-up there were a couple of areas which were of concern to him.
He asked to speak to both coaches and it was agreed to try and heat the designated areas in order for the match to go ahead.
However, as this was being put in place, more areas of concern developed and with player safety at stake, the referee had no option but to declare the pitch unplayable.
Player welfare is paramount and the Six Nations believe the referee’s decision was the right one under the circumstances.
A rescheduled date will be announced as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the International Rugby Board has issued a statement in support of referee Dave Pearson’s decision to deem the Stade de France pitch unplayable on Saturday night.
The IRB statement read: “Player welfare and safety is the primary concern for the IRB and its match officials.
“Having witnessed and assessed the rapid deterioration of the playing surface between the final pitch inspection and the scheduled kick-off time, and following consultation with the match official team, both coaches and Championship organisers, Dave Pearson deemed the pitch unplayable on player welfare grounds.
“The RBS 6 Nations is not under the jurisdiction of the IRB and all questions relating to rescheduling of the fixture should be directed to the Six Nations Committee.
“The IRB will not make any further comment on the matter.”