Six Nations: IRB backs referee over France v Ireland postponement

The International Rugby Board has backed referee Dave Pearson's decision to postpone Saturday's France v Ireland Six Nations match in Paris.

Pearson called off the tie just 10 minutes before kick-off after deciding that parts of the pitch at the Stade de France stadium were frozen.

An earlier inspection had decided that the ground was playable.

"Player welfare and safety is the primary concern for the IRB and its officials," said the IRB on Sunday.

The statement added: "The weather conditions deteriorated rapidly and by the time the referee went back on the pitch during warm up there were a couple of areas which were of concern to him. He asked to speak to both coaches and it was agreed to try and heat the designated areas in order for the match to go ahead.

"However as this was being put in place more areas of concern developed and, with player safety at stake, the referee had no option but to declare the pitch unplayable."

Six Nations officials confirmed the match will now be staged during one of the tournament's break weekends - 18-19 February or 3-4 March - with BBC Sport's Iain Carter reporting that fans have been told to keep their tickets.

Later on Sunday, the tournament committee issued another statement clarifying the protocol involved when matches are called off.

"It will be for the host union to decide whether a match is to be postponed or abandoned for health and safety reasons or it will be for the referee to decide whether a match is to be postponed or abandoned due to the condition of the pitch," the statement read.

"There are no other parties that can make a decision to postpone a Six Nations match."

The body added: "Six Nations Council would like to express regret that thousands of supporters were left disappointed and frustrated by this late postponement last night in Paris."

After the decision, Ireland coach Declan Kidney told the BBC he agreed with the postponement. He said: "One particular corner of the pitch was dangerous to play on so the referee took the right decision.

"The players were pumped up for it in the dressing room as the protocol of this competition demands that you prepare fully for the game.

"The boys were ready to go but sometimes you have to let your head rule your heart."

It is the first time since 1985 that a Six Nations match has been called off because of adverse weather conditions.