Virus stops England's 6N Test in Italy

The Six Nations Test between England and Italy in Rome has been postponed due to the coronavirus

England's Six Nations game against Italy on March 14 in Rome has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Tournament organisers faced the option of playing the game behind closed doors at the Stadio Olimpico or delaying it until later in the year and have chosen the latter option.

The Press Association says official confirmation of the decision is expected from Six Nations later on Thursday.

Shaping the decision is the Italian Rugby Federation's desire to retain the revenue generated by a lucrative home clash with Eddie Jones' title hopefuls.

By staging the game behind closed doors, the cash-strapped union would have missed out on gate receipts for a 73,000 sell-out.

It is the second game of the 2020 Six Nations to be postponed after Ireland's clash with Italy in Dublin on Saturday was also called off on public health grounds.

The decision comes after an Italian government decree issued on Wednesday night said Serie A matches would not be open to the public until April 3 in an attempt to halt the spread of Covid-19.

Italy is the European country most affected by the coronavirus with in excess of 3,000 people infected - a number that includes over 100 deaths. Eleven towns in northern Italy are in lockdown.

Six Nations organisers are being guided by government directives in deciding the fate of games and, in light of the decree, activated their contingency plan to find a new date for games affected by the virus.

As yet there is no indication whether the surviving four games of the competition are under threat.

Six Nations chiefs now face the challenge of finding a date to re-stage England's visit to Rome knowing there is not much room in the calendar to accommodate the match.

The postponements mean it will be some time before a winner of the 2020 Six Nations is established.

England face Wales at Twickenham on Saturday needing victory to keep them in title contention.

The Women's Six Nations match between Italy and England in Padua on March 15 is also believed to have been postponed.