France will travel to Dublin to play Ireland after being granted exemption

Government grant elite athletes’ exemption to French squad ahead of Saturday’s game in Donnybrook

Ireland play France in Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations semi-final at Energia Park. File photograph: Inpho

Ireland play France in Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations semi-final at Energia Park. File photograph: Inpho

 

The Government has granted the French squad an elite athletes’ exemption to travel to Dublin for Saturday’s Six Nations semi-final at Energia Park, Donnybrook.

Concerns over visitors from France being forced to enter mandatory hotel quarantine, from this Thursday, had put the fixture in doubt but Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed that international sport will not be affected.

“We are putting in place an exemption specifically for professional and elite athletes,” Donnelly told Virgin Media, “and working closely with Minister [Catherine] Martin and Minister [Jack] Chambers on this, I am aware we have some big international events coming up soon.”

The Government’s decision will have a positive impact on the 2021 Irish Open, which is due to take place at Mount Juliet from July 1st to 4th. Also, Leinster players will not have to quarantine on their return from the Champions Cup semi-final in La Rochelle on May 1st.

“Now,” Donnelly added, “these [exemptions] are with regard to category two countries so they do pose a higher risk to category one countries so how we are thinking about this is to work with the appropriate sports bodies to make sure there are equivalent facilities and equivalent processes put in place that nonetheless facilitate the professional and elite games.”

The French players and management will undergo two rounds of testing before flying into Dublin airport on Thursday or Friday.

The presumption is that the French federation learned a valuable lesson from Toulon’s abandoned Champions Cup match against Leinster earlier this month, when the Toulon squad arrived in Dublin with several close contacts to a player who had tested positive for Covid-19. As a result, Leinster were awarded the victory.

France and Ireland racked up a combined total of 98 points over a rudderless Wales team in the opening two rounds of the women’s championship. The winner of Saturday’s game – live on RTÉ2, kick-off 2.15pm – faces England away on April 24th in what is essentially a one-off Six Nations finals day.

“Look, we’ve been extremely flexible and adaptable over the last 12 months and that’s not going to stop now,” said Ireland winger Béibhinn Parsons at Avonmore’s ‘Bring Your All’ campaign. “We’re all preparing as if we’re playing France at the weekend, I’m fully invested that I’m going to step out onto Donnybrook at the weekend and play a Test match.

“Unless anything changes, unless we hear differently, we’re all preparing for that match.”

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