6 Nations: France-Ireland postponed due to cold
Updated: February 11, 2012, 17:44
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SAINT-DENIS, France(AP) The referee's decision to postpone France's Six Nations match against Ireland because the field was frozen on Saturday angered the French Rugby Federation president Pierre Camou.
Two hours after declaring the Stade de France field fit to play on, referee Dave Pearson postponed the match moments before the 9 p.m. kickoff, when the temperature was minus-5 Celsius, with a wind chill of minus-11.
Camou struggled to contain his anger at Pearson's last-ditch call.
"I think the referee, who is absent tonight, because he doesn't want to talk, was aware, knew, had seen, last night and a little while ago (the state of the field),'' Camou said, making it clear the FFR was not to blame. "In this precise case, we are participants, and in no way decision-makers ... it's not down to me.
"I feel totally saddened, to say the least, for all of those who have made the journey,'' Camou added. "I don't want to get carried away and use words (that are too strong). I deeply regret this decision.''
Camou took a final, sarcastic swipe at Pearson, noting that Italy's home match against England hours earlier had gone ahead in subzero temperatures. Snow fell at Stadio Olimpico, covering large parts of the field.
"I think I saw a rugby match this afternoon, at the Olympic Stadium,'' he said. "The referee was French.''
Ireland coach Declan Kidney, however, agreed with postponing the match.
"The pitch was unsafe for the players to play on,'' Kidney said. "It was quite dangerous.''
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre understood Pearson's decision, as did his players.
"He's the one in charge of the player's safety, he decided that two or three areas of the field were hardening and were dangerous,'' Saint-Andre said.
Winger Vincent Clerc said he felt "gutted'' for the fans who'd made the trip, but also backed Pearson.
"Last week the field was already very hard against Italy, but this time there really were blocks (of ice), areas where it was impossible (to play),'' Clerc said. "I think it's a wise decision.''
Center Aurelien Rougerie would have played, given the chance, but also thought it sensible not to.
"We're always ready to play, ready for anything,'' Rougerie said. "I think it's a sensible and logical decision. There's always the risk of injury, whether going on a run or in the scrum.''
Six Nations spokeswoman Christine Connolly said the decision rested firmly with Pearson.
"The referee came to look at the game last night, the field was covered, and he thought that it was possible to play,'' Connolly said. "He looked at the field again at 1900 and deemed that the field was playable. Unfortunately, in the ensuing two hours he thought that the field was worsened, that it was frozen in several areas and was dangerous and unplayable.''
Kidney expected the match to be played during one of the two weekend breaks in the tournament, either next Saturday or March 3.
Connolly confirmed this would be the case, with a decision possibly as soon as Monday.
Huge jeers rang out at the sold-out Stade de France as the players failed to take to the field, with a marching band in the middle ready to play the national anthems.
The stadium announcer was drowned out by the booing when he informed the crowd the match referee called off the game.
France captain Thierry Dusuatoir then took the microphone to address the fans.
"Thanks to everyone for coming to encourage us tonight, unfortunately the game has been called off,'' Dusautoir said. "I hope you will all come and support us next time. The decision has been taken, and now we will prepare for the next time.''
Both teams went out onto the field to applaud the crowd, which did little to soften the blow.
Kidney admitted the decision had taken the players by surprise.
"The reaction to the guys in the dressing room was 'you're joking me,''' Kidney said. "How do you get that pumped up for a game, you know? International rugby or any professional rugby isn't something where you arrive and you go out for a friendly jog around. But they are great lads and there's a good bit of banter in the dressing room now.''
Saint-Andre also said his players were preparing to brave the dangerous conditions.
"I can assure you that the dressing room was really up for it,'' he said. "We're very disappointed, first of all for the fans who came to get behind the French fans, secondly for the players who'd prepared to play.
"Now we have to wait. We would preferably like to play next Saturday or Sunday ... we're on standby.''