British and Irish Lions tour in South Africa is BACK ON with organisers ploughing ahead with games behind closed doors despite Covid variant fears, because it would cost too much to relocate to play matches at home
- The British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa will go ahead this summer
- The Lions are set to travel to South Africa despite a third wave expected
- Plans to host the tour in the UK and Ireland were dismissed due to costs
- Talks are ongoing with South Africa amid concerns that it isn’t financially viable
The British and Irish Lions tour will go ahead in South Africa as first planned, with the series set to be played behind closed doors after plans to host the tour in the UK and Ireland were dismissed due to cost concerns.
As Sportsmail reported on Monday, the RFU supported moves to resurrect the tour in South Africa amid concerns regarding the country’s deadly variant of coronavirus.
South Africa is bracing for a third wave of the disease, expected to arrive at the start of winter in June, coinciding with the visit of the Lions.
The British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa will be staged behind closed doors this summer
The Lions are set to travel to South Africa despite an expected third wave of coronavirus
There had been suggestions that the tour could be relocated, with Australia offering to host the series while claims that the UK and Ireland could host gathered momentum.
However, with the UK Government seemingly unwilling to underwrite the financial risk of arranging fixtures here, the concept of sending the squad to South Africa has been forced back on to the agenda.
And The Telegraph reports that the plan of relocating the series to the UK and Ireland have been dismissed by the Lions board, owing to time, logistics and expense issues.
As such, the series is set to go ahead in South Africa as initially planned, with the four-Test tour set to be played behind closed doors in July and August.
The Lions board dismissed plans to host in the UK and Ireland because of financial concerns
With the UK government seemingly unwilling to underwrite costs, plans have been changed
Talks with South Africa Rugby to finalise the details of the tour continue, with challenges posed by the pandemic still needing to be addressed.
The latest development comes after the RFU threw its weight behind plans to travel to South Africa.
‘If it is possible, the RFU is supportive of the Lions tour going ahead in South Africa as planned,’ said an RFU spokesperson. ‘Ultimately the decision will be made by the Lions Board together with SARU, and the welfare of players will be central to any decision made.’
Former Wales coach Warren Gatland will take charge of the squad for this summer’s tour
Meanwhile, the Lions board hurriedly brought in ex-Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips to deputise for managing director Ben Calveley this week, who has been signed off from work duties on medical grounds.
This disruptive development comes in a week which is regarded as the deadline for making a decision about the Covid-blighted 2021 tour.
The Lions and South Africa will take solace in the success of this year’s Six Nations, which were also played behind closed doors. Lions boss Warren Gatland has cast his eye over a number of players in line for selection for this summer’s tour.
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