Andy Farrell has admitted to a sense of deflation among his Ireland squad after confirmation on Monday lunchtime that their Six Nations encounter with France in Paris next weekend has been postponed.
The decision, taken by the French union after guidance from the country's civil authorities, was widely expected due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis and it is just one of a growing number of sporting events to be put in cold storage.
Ireland were due to meet Italy in Dublin last Saturday but that had long been nixed by the Irish government. England's visit to Rome next weekend has also fallen by the wayside although the meeting of Wales and Scotland in Cardiff is, as it stands, still on.
No decision has yet been made regarding the France-Ireland women's or U20s games which are due to take place in Lille and Perpignan respectively.
“It is what it is,” said Farrell. “You can’t do anything but the right thing. The reaction of the players when we’ve come back off a good morning’s work was one of deflation a little bit. Gutted. We’ve built up for a couple of weeks on the back of a disappointment and we were looking forward to the week ahead.
“We were literally on the training field going through our prep for this afternoon and tomorrow. We had some good chat setting up our week nicely and we’ve come off the indoor training field and we get the news.
“We have to make new plans and we’re still in the process of doing that. We were literally told 10 minutes ago. The lads will have a weights session this afternoon. There’s a unit session and skills session along with that but we’ll re-assess that when I finish with this press conference.”
We’re disappointed it’s not going ahead but we understand fully. We had a joke. We said let’s just forget about those three hours’ work.
"No, it’s all good. It’s all in the bag isn’t it? That last couple of weeks’ preparation, we shall make sure we harness that and then we’ll catch up on the bits we’ve missed out on in the not too distant future.”
The Ireland squad are due to round off their day's work with a weights session this afternoon and will then disperse back to their provinces but, with Guinness PRO14 fixtures also called off this month, there is doubt over how the club season will progress too.
When the remaining Six Nations fixtures will be played has yet to be confirmed with the tournament organisers opting against making any firm plans in light of the evolving situation but late October looks to be the most likely of points.
Even that presents issues given Ireland and Italy will have two games to fit in on top of the usual November internationals and the opening two rounds of the Heineken Champions Cup but the Six Nations is the bist earner for European rugby so a solution will surely be found.
For Farrell, it all makes for a strange first few months in charge after taking or from Joe Schmidt.
The loss to England in Twickenham last month will now sit with them until the summer at least when they are due to tour Australia although, with France losing to Scotland on Sunday, they will likely have a title to fight for whenever they do get around to visiting Paris.
“We're a team that still in control of our own destiny so it's not a bad place to be,” said Farrell at the National Sports Campus. “Everybody knows that the Six Nations is unbelievably difficult and everyone judges us on our performance.
“At the end of the day we are two wins from three and so are a couple of other teams and some teams are below that. Regarding the outcome of those games our destiny is still in our hands.”