Ireland thankful for France's 'superb act of solidarity' in moving Women's Six Nations finale to Dublin

"To experience such generosity of spirit is uplifting and goes to the very heart of what the sport of rugby, and the Six Nations, is all about"
Ireland thankful for France's 'superb act of solidarity' in moving Women's Six Nations finale to Dublin

Caroline Boujard celebrates scoring a try for France with her teammates in last year's Six Nations game at Energia Park, Donnybrook. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Ireland's final match of the Women's Six Nations will take place in Dublin, and not Lille, after a kind gesture from France.

The Government's escalation to Level 5 lockdown restrictions had inadvertently put the fixture under threat, as the amateur status of the Ireland team made it impossible for many to comply with a 14-day isolation period upon their return.

The guidance for elite athletes allows them to continue training and matches in their high-performance bubble when returning from a country that is not on the travel green list. 

"This is not an issue for the men’s national team, who, as full-time professionals remain within a strict high-performance bubble on their return from away fixtures," explained the IRFU. 

"However, as the women’s national team members are amateurs, it is not possible for many of them to commit to isolating for 14 days following a return from the match, if held in France, as they, understandably, have responsibilities to their families and employers, some of which are in the teaching and medical communities."

The IRFU had sought an exemption from the 14-day isolation period on the grounds that the players were operating in a "highly controlled high-performance bubble" in discussions with Sport Ireland and the Government's Return to Sport Expert Group.

It was confirmed this week such an exemption would not be granted.

However, the French rugby team have agreed to travel to Ireland to fulfil the fixture as their government does not require them to isolate upon their return to France.

"We are extremely grateful to the French Federation and their women’s team for this superb act of solidarity with the Ireland women’s team and IRFU," said CEO Philip Browne. 

"To experience such generosity of spirit is uplifting and goes to the very heart of what the sport of rugby, and the Six Nations, is all about. 

"Over the past weeks, we were in regular contact with Sport Ireland and the Expert Group on Return to Sport regarding a possible derogation for the women’s national team from the established guidelines. 

"With Ireland entering a Level 5 lockdown, we fully accepted the decision not to grant a derogation on the travel restrictions for elite amateur athletes. 

"I wish to thank the French Federation and their women’s team on behalf of all involved in Irish rugby for their decision. 

"We now look forward to hosting the French women’s XV and the fixture here in Dublin, and both teams can get back to concentrating on rugby."

The game had originally been scheduled for Sunday, November 1, at Stadium Lille-Métropole with a 1.30pm kick-off. 

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