France rules to get stricter following COVID-19 outbreak

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FILE PHOTO: Autumn Nations Cup - France v Italy

PARIS (Reuters) - The French rugby team's anti-COVOD-19 protocol will be strengthened, with players and staff not being allowed to leave their hotel ahead of Six Nations games, federation president Bernard Laporte said on Friday.

France's game against Scotland last weekend was postponed after 12 French players and five staff members, including coach Fabien Galthie, tested positive for the coronavirus.

French players were seen in the streets of Rome eating waffles before their Six Nations opener against Italy on Feb. 6, and Galthie left the training camp to attend his son's rugby game in Paris the day after the game.

However, an internal investigation led by the federation ruled that nobody had broken any rules.

"When they go out with a mask on, to me, there was no wrongdoing," Laporte said on Friday after a meeting with French Education, Youth and Sports Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer.

"But from now on, it's forbidden. The protocol will be stricter. Now you can't leave the hotel."

France are set to gather at their training camp on Sunday before travelling to London to face England on March 13.

"The sanitary protocol was well designed and it was respected. But we have to go further," Blanquer told reporters after his talks with Laporte.

Team manager Raphael Ibanez has also been tasked with making sure that all the rules are respected.

"Now we're taking a belt-and-braces approach," said Blanquer.

Les Bleus, chasing their first title in the Six Nations since 2010, the year they completed their last Grand Slam, won their first two matches, against Italy and then on Feb. 14 against Ireland.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Gareth Jones)