The British and Irish Lions are set to announce the schedule for their 2021 eight-match tour to South Africa but a proposed warm-up game against the Barbarians at Twickenham remains up in the air.
The Lions head coach Warren Gatland would like his squad to enjoy time together before flying out but is still waiting for the Premiership clubs to agree to moving their final forward by a week.
The South African itinerary is poised to involve three Tests in Soweto, Cape Town and Johannesburg and five provincial matches, four against Super Rugby sides plus a midweek game versus an emerging Springboks selection.
As things stand it will be the briefest of tours – the last three tours all involved 10 fixtures – making life extra difficult for Gatland as he seeks to mould a Test team capable of beating the world champions.
To allow more preparation time the Pro14 has agreed to shift the date of its final but the Premiership has yet to follow suit. Its final is still due to be played on June 26th, just seven days prior to the Lions’ first tour fixture.
“They have said they are not moving their final which I find very disappointing,” said Gatland last month. “If PRL did that it would be fantastic . . . it would help us so much in the planning and preparation. I cannot understand why PRL would not want to be more positive about doing more to help the Lions and embrace it. Whether they are playing hard-ball or not it would be nice to give the Lions the best possible chance to go there and win the series. Hopefully common sense will prevail.”