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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

No date confirmed yet for postponed Six Nations game

The Six Nations council met yesterday and have said that they are yet to set a date for the replay of the game between France and Ireland in Paris. The game was called off within minutes of kickoff on Saturday night due to a frozen pitch.

Thousands of fans packed the Stade De France for what should have been a fascinating game of rugby. It certainly was interesting to watch, but the game never kicked off and 80 000 or so, both French and travelling Irish, were left wondering what on earth was going on.

Referee Dave Pearson took to the field a few minutes earlier and after doing all they can, it was decided that the field simply wasn't safe enough for the game to go on. It was after 9pm in winter in Paris, with temperatures below freezing.

"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, Pearson deemed the pitch unplayable on player welfare grounds," said statement from the IRB.

The challenge now is to find the best date for the game, with it looking likely that it will be the first weekend of March. While those who attended are able to return with their tickets, it's probably scant consolation considering the costs involved from both Ireland and the south of France. 

"Further to a meeting of the Six Nations Council today, we can confirm that the postponed RBS 6 Nations France versus Ireland match will not take place this weekend (Feb 17/18/19)," they said in a statement on Monday.

"A further meeting of the Council will take place tomorrow to hopefully resolve the issues of rescheduling and ticket policy. There are very significant logistical issues arising from this situation, and we would wish to be in a position to give a comprehensive clarification following the meeting."

If it's played on March 3rd, it would mean France and Ireland would have to play four successive games. There's also the issue of the Top 14 clubs wanting their players back for that weekend, with some big fixtures lined up, including Clermont Auvergne vs Toulouse.

A decision confirming the date of the replay will be made today, earliest. It was the first time a Six Nations game has been called off because of weather conditions in over 25 years.

Below is a twenty minute video that takes you through the scenes in Paris as they happened, including some interesting discussions on the fiasco. If you were at the Stade De France, or know someone who was, please share your thoughts on what went on as a comment below. 

Posted by Rugbydump at 8:50 am | View Comments (26)

Major buzzkill as bees delay Currie Cup Semi Final kick off

Viewing 26 comments

Pretzel February 14, 2012 11:13 am

First time a game has been postponed since the foot and mouth?

Amazing really how cold it has been this time around.

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WelshOsprey February 14, 2012 11:29 am

Italy/England pitch looked a lot worse
Feel bad for the irish fans who went out there for nothing

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Colombes February 14, 2012 11:55 am

love the quote at the end "sorry about that, good night"

more seriously, it must have been a sad experience for both french and irish fans in the stadium. i was at stade de france the week before for france-italy and the pitch seemed also very hard but apparently playable.

why this story finished badly? the fact is that many french players (clerc, rougerie, yachvili) alerted after the FFR (just after italy) that the pitch was hard and to reschedule the match to 15:00 or 19:00 would be a good solution. The FFR and french TV channels agreed and asked it to the 6N, who refused... invoking that many fans would maybe missed the match start
So, the FFR choose the option "warm the grass all week along". it works well after the ref checked it 2 times friday and saturday. but the pitch had to be released 2 hours before the kick-off for teams training, 2 hours enough for freezing

what to retain about it? A collegial foul from 6 nations, the IRB and the FFR for not having able to take in consideration an high risk of report despite players alerts and siberian meteo forecasts; and above all, the uncapacity for every part to gather around a table and discuss about it

Solutions? A warm technology ground? Yep, but easy for recently built stadiums like Aviva or some English ones, but difficult and expensive for the Stade de France which was built in the 1990's for a summer tournament (WC 1998). i think it was the first time that this stadium met these kind of freezing conditions

when to play? first week-end of march will certainly be the best solution even if it will handicap both teams as france and ireland will have to play 4 matches in an exhausting month.

Rugby has maybe become professional, but certain of the institutions stay in the amateurism

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moddeur February 14, 2012 12:07 pm

When major rivers start freezing over, and sun-blazed Toulouse hits the -18 windchill mark, you feel that the organizers would get a sense of the urgency regarding the pitch. But somehow everyone got it wrong and now the blame game has started. It's the fault of the French. It's the fault of the Stade de France. It's the fault of the VI nations committee. It's Mr Pearson's fault. It's because of the TV channels (who, we later learned, actually proposed to move the match to 3pm earlier in the week - or so they say). It's because rugby has become too popular.

Although the pitch was in a bad condition (Vincent Clerc said that in some areas he couldn't even plant his studs into the ground - and skidded instead), what I personally think, regardless of cause or culprit, is that the decision could and actually should have been taken earlier.

10 000 people have come from Ireland (plane fare, hotel, ticket ...), perhaps three times as many from all corners of France (the Stade de France is a seven-hours or more drive from Toulouse, and will cost about 150 euros in toll and fuel alone, so if you had hotel and ticket costs ... ), and all the others from Paris and surroundings ... all these people deserved to have known 2mn before kick-off.

ps: here in Toulouse all rugby fields have been shut down by Townhall for 2 weeks now. All amateur rugby has been shut down. It seems only the pros have been playing (and even some Top14 games have been cancelled).

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moddeur February 14, 2012 12:20 pm

The FFR's (French Rugby Federation) treasurer argues that the General Sales Conditions for Stade de France tickets do not make it compulsory for the FFR to reimburse tickets for the cancelled match (casus fortuitus).
This makes it possible for Pierre Camou, the FFR president, to appear magnanimous when he says that the FFR "will reimburse nonetheless", as a kind gesture to all those poor fans.

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Giovanni Trapatoni February 14, 2012 12:25 pm

Personaly, I think that if there was any doubt about whether the game could be played or not 2 or 3 days before the match they should have called it off there and then. If I was travelling over from Ireland to Paris for the weekend I would much rather hear that the game was called off a few days before hand and just enjoy my time in Paris. Instead packing a stadium full of supporters, getting their hopes up, just for them to find out last minute the game is cancelled.

Watching it at home in Ireland, they interviewed some of the fans in the crowd and one of them said how he found out the game was cancelled by text message off someone back home in Ireland. The fans in the stadium were the very last people to hear it was cancelled. And holding onto the match tickets (if they hadn't been thrown away at that stage) is quite insulting considering people spent hundreds on flights and accommodation over to Paris, just to hear that their tickets would be valid for the next game. Thats all well and good until people have to splash out hundreds more for the flights and accommodation for the rescheduled match.

I feel sorry too for all the French supporters who travelled too. Especially since it could have taken them hours to drive there. And I'm sure it probably took shorter for some of the Irish to get there rather than some of the French supporters. I think the IRB and 6 Nations, whcih is usually run well, have been poorly managed this time round.

They're just lucky this was a rugby match and not a soccer match. Had this been a soccer game, I'd have no doubt in my mind there'd be riots afterwards.

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Pretzel February 14, 2012 1:03 pm

"They're just lucky this was a rugby match and not a soccer match. Had this been a soccer game, I'd have no doubt in my mind there'd be riots afterwards."

I second that!

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themull February 14, 2012 12:42 pm

In reality the FFR knew this game was likely to be unable to play, but they were afraid to make the call during the week and so tried to let Pearson take the flak for calling it..In reality the FFR is to blame for this fiasco..Firstly for not having underground heating like pretty much all national stadiums have these days, particularly those of big nations like France...And secondly for not calling it on Friday at the latest...

Also had to laugh at Heaslip and Hari talking towards the end and then as they walked away from each other Heaslip asks him to go for a drink later on...Nice to see from two guys usually knocking lumps out of each other

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MattyP February 14, 2012 11:59 pm

Yeah I loved seeing Harryordinary and Heaslip fixing where they were going for a drink later. That would be a big night on the town!

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7europints February 14, 2012 2:45 pm

What a farce and disappointing weekend! We arrived to our seats in the Stade de France just before 9 pm. We had literally no idea what was happening and why kick off was delayed. Of course we didn't even notice that it had been delayed as we were happy out drinking and singing and just soaking up the atmosphere. Personally I was so over the moon to finally get to see a game at this wonderful stadium and could not have been happier sitting amongst the throngs of french fans. Up until about 5/10 minutes after 9 there were public announcements telling the fans to please take your seat as quickly as possible to avoid missing the national anthems. Obviously they were trying to get all the fans in and seated before letting them all out again. When the group of french fans next to us get up and left saying "pas de match, pas de match" I though to myself "Great we've a few spare seats here for the lads behind us to come down and join us." It honestly didn't even cross my mind that they were in any way correct! In the video the commentators are saying "What are they waiting for?" referring to the tens of thousands of fans who were all still actually waiting for kick off. The official announcement was an absolute blow! When she started speaking I was drunk, by the time she had finished I was sober! People, like myself, refusing to leave out of pure disbelief! But the general reaction was quite calm, just like you would expect out of rugby supporters, and the immediate thought to cross everybody's mind was "Right, where's the best place for a beer and what's that fastest way of getting there?" We met a good few French fans afterwards who were just as disappointed as the Irish fans and also felt the need to apologize to us on behalf of the whole situation, which was a really nice gesture and not one that would be made in many other sporting communities. All-in-all just hugely disappointing and I for one won't be returning for next time! :( :(

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Reality February 14, 2012 3:14 pm

Ahah, if the announcement sobered you up and then you had to get drunk again on €7 pints then overall it must have been a pretty expensive night.

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stroudos February 14, 2012 2:55 pm

7:30 - kids asleep and my wife heads out to spend the evening with some friends,

7:45 - there I am, on the sofa with a nice pint of Guinness, looking forward to a nice relaxing evening in front of the rugby.

7:55 - John Inverdale eventually gets word that the game is indeed OFF.


"Oh well," I think. "The BBC must have been anticipating that the game might be cancelled - especially considering how much Inverdale et al have just been slating the tourny organisers for not having a plan B.

"No problem," I reassure myself. "The BBC will have a contingency plan - hey, maybe they'll show a highlights reel of classic France-Ireland encounters, maybe they'll put on a replay of that 2000 match with O'Driscoll's hat-trick!".

8:00 - Walk back into living room with a fresh can of Guinness, to be greeted by - no, assaulted by - these dreadful, excruciating words from the BBC announcer: "And now, two hours of country & western music".


Absolutely devastated.

All these people sympathising with the travelling fans having their night ruined - let's just say it could have been a lot worse!

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stroudos February 14, 2012 3:04 pm

I'll just post this here:

(RD - I did look, but couldn't find it, on this site).

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cheyanqui February 14, 2012 6:56 pm

I don't know what's the worst news in the caption at the bottom of RTÉ:

Match Cancelled
Premier Soccer Saturday to Follow

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The Claw February 14, 2012 9:18 pm

Ireland to play France on Sunday 4th March at 4pm French time (3pm Irish)

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rugby08 February 14, 2012 9:27 pm

Interesting... Hate listening to George Hook's voice though. T&^t

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Aupa BO February 14, 2012 11:09 pm

Stupid thing that happened on saturday...I felt sad for all irish people who traveled to Paris just to freeze their nuts waiting for nothing.
I'm french and i was drinking pints with some friends in a bar in Paris when the 6 Nations board announced that the game was to be postponed...and boy i was sad. I can only imagine what the irish felt...+ the cost...
Good thing that that the game is scheduled for march 4th thought !

Not related: Heard the news about Chabal ? the guy is going to Australia for one bloody game ! Preposterous as you Brit's would say !


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kadova February 14, 2012 11:47 pm

I'm a French living in Dublin. I was at the stadium on saturday night with my friends from Paris. We're still completely disgusted. I have "only" lost €300 for flight and a hotel night, some Irish fans lost €1000.
We were told the match was postponed a good 15 min after it was told on TV, because they needed 15 min for the security to be set up to let people leave the stadium. We then got free public transport to go home/to the hotel.
Also, we learnt there's no under soil-heating because of pockets of methane gas underground due to the industrial past of the area.
What made us furious was that the french TV requested a few days earlier to start the match a 3pm CET but the 6 Nations committee refused.
At leats, we have a new date now, although it would have been better for Irish fans for it to be sat 3rd.
I'm myself lucky as i was due to be in Paris from wednesday 7th (non rugby-related issue) so i just have to change the date of my flight.... and pay 3 more nights in a hotel.
Still furious....

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i love bacon February 15, 2012 4:28 am

What's done is done, but I have to wonder:

Do they make heated field covers as well? In situations like this, where, apparently, underground heating is impossible, a heated cover would maybe have helped keep the pitch from freezing long enough for a game to be played.


In a perfect world, they would've just packed the show up and moved it on down somewhere in the South of France and played it on Sunday or perhaps on a weekday. But in the real world of professional sport, with broadcasting rights, with the countless tickets and'd never happen.


And lastly, if nothing else, this serves as a good reminder of why it can be beneficial to get travel insurance.

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i love bacon February 15, 2012 8:41 pm

Thanks for the link. That's more or less along the lines of what I was getting at (although, I guess I was thinking more of just a heated tarp that still allows moisture to get out, but it's still the same), so it's good to know that kind of solution also exists - and that it's a viable solution for places that don't/can't have underground heating.

I guess the Parisians most likely didn't have ready access to that sort of equipment, given that this kind of cold snap isn't all that prevalent...but I wonder if they'll invest in that kind of technology for the future.

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Pretzel February 16, 2012 5:52 pm

Some Saturdays I feel like the entire game should be played UNDER one of those tents!

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moddeur February 15, 2012 9:27 am

The good news is that the FFR has been planning the construction of its own stadium in the Paris region (to be independent of the Stade de France's planning), and its now down to two geographical candidates (Thiais or Evry - place chosen in june 2012). The stadium will house 82 000 and have a retractable roof. Opening match in 2017.
For French speakers:

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Guest February 15, 2012 5:24 pm

So apparently, the game is to be played the fourth of march, at 4pm.
Much better than what the the French league asked, that is, to play the game in september!

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Frenchie February 15, 2012 8:33 pm

@ themull:

the FFR is not the institution to decide wether the game was to be called off or not, the FFR has no decision making there. Only the 6 Nations Committee is in charge as being the organizers of the competition.

As said already the French TV, and the FFR requested to move the game earlier in the day but it has been refused ( i assume by the 6 Nations Committee). Why? Nobody knows. So the game was to be played, and the FFR tried its best to make sure the pitch was in playable. For information the pitch was covered all week and hot air was being blown.

I was shocked to hear that this stadium has no underground heating system. And given the extreme temperature what has been put in place seemed way too little...

I'd love to hear what the 6 Nations Committee has to say on the matter!!

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