Lions Tour to go ahead in South Africa this summer

Games likely to take place behind closed doors due to Covid-19

 Ben Calveley, British and Irish Lions managing director, and coach Warren Gatland speak to media during the  coach announcement at London Syon Park Hotel last June. Photograph: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Ben Calveley, British and Irish Lions managing director, and coach Warren Gatland speak to media during the coach announcement at London Syon Park Hotel last June. Photograph: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

 

The British and Irish Lions are set to play in South Africa this summer after scrapping potential plans to host the tour in Britain and Ireland. The Lions board and their counterparts at SA Rugby have now confirmed “their intended position” is for the series to happen in the southern hemisphere with secure Covid-19 precautionary measures in place.

With time having virtually run out to switch the tour to the northern hemisphere, the games are now likely to take place behind closed doors. “After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the board’s intended position is for the tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021,” said Jason Leonard, chairman of the British & Irish Lions.

“We acknowledge that there is a significant amount of work still to be undertaken to deliver a robust Covid-19 countermeasure plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted Tour. SA Rugby will have our full support to help implement this plan.”

Mark Alexander, president of the SA Rugby, said he would inform the executive council of the South African Rugby Union of the alignment. “We appreciate the Lions’ faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” said Alexander. “We have been in regular contact with our government to make that a reality against the backdrop of the pandemic and its predicted progression over the coming months.

“There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby, should the event take place without any supporters in attendance, and we cannot ignore that in our considerations. But we are determined that the eventual outcome will deliver the best occasion and experience for players, supporters and our commercial partners.”

It is possible that tweaks may be required to the original tour schedule but Leonard believes the players chosen for the tour will still be honoured to participate against the world champions.

“Every British and Irish player dreams of wearing the famous red jersey, and players from the southern hemisphere aspire to be part of a Lions series. We owe it to the current players vying for a place in both squads to ensure they can become part of Lions history. We are very much looking forward to taking on South Africa for what promises to be a highly-competitive series against the reigning world champions.”

It is not yet known whether international or cross-border travel for supporters will be possible into the country in July. Supporters who have purchased ticket-inclusive packages through Lions Rugby Travel will be notified directly via email with information on the options available. In the event that spectators are not permitted to gain access to the Test matches, Lions supporters who had successfully purchased Test match tickets via the Lions ticket ballot will be refunded. – Guardian

Lions tour 2021 proposed fixture list

Pre-tour warm-up game
Sat, June 26th :
v Japan, Edinburgh

Tour warm-up games:
Sat, July 3rd:
v Stormers, Cape Town
Wed, July 7th: v South Africa Invitational, Port Elizabeth
Sat, July 10th: v Sharks , Durban
Wed, July 14th: v South Africa A, Nelspruit
Sat, July 17th: v Bulls, Pretoria

Test matches
Sat, July 24th:
v South Africa, Johannesburg (FNB Stadium)
Sat, July 31st: v South Africa, Cape Town
Sat, August 7th: v South Africa, Johannesburg (Emirates Airline Park)

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