Fears are growing for the future of the 2020 Six Nations Championship as the threat of coronavirus rapidly spreads across Europe.

The Ireland v Italy clash, in Dublin, on March 7 was first to bite the Six Nations dust and there's a real threat it won't be the only game called off.

Irish rugby chiefs are working frantically with their Italian counterparts and tournament bosses to find alternative dates.

And the British government are in talks with the Rugby Football Union about whether England should follow suit and postpone their March 14 clash with Italy because of the coronavirus threat.

Reports have surfaced that Six Nations officials are privately conceding the immediate future of the tournament is hanging in the balance with further disruption to the schedule looking highly likely.

It could well mean the Six Nations not being completed for the first time since 1972.

With the 2020 Six Nations now hanging in the balance here's what we know about the disruptions, possible replay dates and more postponements.

Will Italy v England go ahead?

Boris Johnson's government and the Rugby Football Union were said to have held talks on Wednesday evening as to postponing their Six Nations trip to Rome on March 14.

Public Health England is advising those returning from northern Italy to self-isolate if they have symptoms of the virus.

A number of towns in northern Italy are in lock-down as part of a mounting crisis that has claimed 12 lives among a total of 400 cases.

The Rugby Football Union is also in talks with the Italian Rugby Federation, Six Nations organisers and government agencies in Italy over the viability of the fixture.

If it determines that England's game should not go ahead, the RFU would be duty-bound to agree.

Rome is not affected by the outbreak and the Six Nations issued a statement saying that "all other matches are currently scheduled to go ahead as normal".

However, it added that it would continue to monitor the situation.

With five Serie A matches not taking place this weekend in the country this coming weekend, the option may also remain to play the England match behind closed doors.

The ultimate call falls on the Italian side, however, as the Italian federation has said that their own government will make decision on whether or not to play the match.

Are other games under threat?

There are now doubts being raised over Ireland's trip to France during the final round of games.

Six Nations chiefs have stated that other matches are "currently" scheduled to go ahead as normal.

But they added they would "respect instructions provided by government authorities and health organisations" - and would be 'fully supportive of any preventative measures taken in the interests of overall public health in relation to the coronavirus'.

French Ministers are meeting on Thursday after the number of confirmed new cases rose to six in just over 24 hours - one of whom has died.

It takes their death toll to two amid fears of an Italian-style outbreak. The new cases brings to 18 the number of cases that have been confirmed so far in France.

Of the 12 people previously confirmed as having the virus, one - an 80-year-old Chinese tourist - died, while the other 11 all recovered and have been released from hospital.

President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that France was preparing for a jump in the number of coronavirus cases, adding "we are going to have to deal with it as best we can".

"We are facing a crisis, an epidemic that is coming," Macron said while visiting staff at the La Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris.

When can Ireland v Italy be played?

With a Six Nations game in Dublin said to boost the local economy by more than £30 million, the IRFU will be keen to have the match with Italy rescheduled, even though much of the union's financial losses will be covered by insurance.

But the window for alternative dates is minuscule.

The Aviva Stadium is pretty much in lockdown from May 1 with Dublin being one of the host venues for the European Football Championships.

That is set to carry an even greater threat given the tournament has gone multi-city throughout the continent for the first time.

Andy Farrell's team travel to Australia for a two-Test tour in July leaving little scope for the game to be played in the summer.

That could trigger a similar scenario to the 2001 Six Nations when Ireland played three games in September and October due to the Foot and Mouth disease.

Ireland will host Australia, South Africa and Japan on successive Saturdays between November 7-21.

Since 2016 the team have played an extra Test outside the designated international window twice with New Zealand in 2016 and Italy in 2018. Italy’s November games include home ties against World Cup winners South Africa, Uruguay and Australia.

There could be a window of opportunity for the game to be played in November, but there is also two down weekends in the Guinness PRO14 should the coronavirus threat subside.

A chance could also open up in May if Leinster and Ulster, who are involved in Heineken Cup quarter-finals on the first weekend of April, both lose, to Saracens and Toulouse respectively. Again the Aviva Stadium's commitments to Euro 2020 could well scupper that option.

When would other cancelled matches be played?

Top 14, Pro 14 and Premiership teams have league and European matches in the diary until the weekend of June 20/21.

France's Pro14 final takes place on the following weekend, which is also when Wales play Japan.

The two weekends following, England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland have fixtures scheduled against Japan, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa .

This means that the weekends of 18-19 and 25-26 July would be free for rescheduled Six Nations rounds.

But you're talking about holding Six Nations matches straight after competitive Test matches raising player welfare issues during a summer break.

If games are re-arranged outside Test windows will players be free to play?

Playing a Test outside the window usually requires the cooperation of the clubs affected.

Ireland and Italy do have control over most of their players' provincial teams though no agreement is set in stone with the Azzurri.

If England’s match against Italy is called off and rescheduled outside an international Test window it is understood there is a provision within the Professional Game Agreement between the RFU and Premiership Rugby that ensures Eddie Jones has access to players.

Could games be played behind closed doors?

One solution suggested is to refund tickets and play the events behind closed doors on their original dates.

The issue with this is that airlines are generally obliged to refund travelling fans if an event is cancelled.

If the fixture were to go ahead - even behind closed doors - many fans are likely to travel anyway leaving the risk of the spread of coronavirus still high.

Should the match be postponed, fans may still travel to host cities on the initial fixture dates due to their pre-booked hotels and flights.

Authorities would need to ensure in both cases that travel and accommodation was refunded to disincentivise travelling to the country regardless.

What are the chances of the tournament not being completed?

With the spread of coronavirus showing now signs of slowing down, the danger of the Six Nations not being completed for the first time since 1972 is a real one.

The escalating political situation in Ireland saw the Five Nations not completed for the first time since World War II.

Scotland and Wales did not travel to Dublin because of the political unrest but in all nine matches were played.

To fill the gap of the missing two fixtures, France played a friendly in Dublin (in addition to the scheduled match in Paris).

As both Ireland and Wales won all their matches, neither could claim the title because of an uncompleted tournament.

The prospect of the 2020 Six Nations following suit would be greater if the Italy-England and France-Ireland games are also called off.

That would see the Italians and Ireland having to reschedule two games into their hectic calendar.

There are financial implications for games being called off, particularly because Six Nations home matches are a major cash cow for all unions.

Will world rankings be affected?

South Africa celebrate winning the Rugby World Cup in Japan

There would be ramifications for the 2023 World Cup in France if the Six Nations wasn't completed

The draw for that will take place in Paris after the 2020 November Test window, with teams' world ranking position at that time determining how they are seeded.

Unplayed Six Nations matches would impact that.

A home game against Italy would have helped Ireland as they aim to ensure a top-four ranking ahead of the draw.

If World Rugby adopted the same policy as they did with cancelled games at the World Cup and awarded a 0-0 draw Ireland would lose a full ranking point.

"With the World Rugby Rankings determining the bands for the RWC 2023 pool draw, it promises to be a fascinating year of men’s international rugby with every match counting towards seeding at the end of the November Test series, which is exciting for fans," said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont last month.