The British & Irish Lions have requested support from the UK government to help host the 2021 ‘tour’ against the Springboks.
Relocating this summer’s tour has been the subject of debate for the Lions board, which met last Thursday to debate contingency plans for playing playing the Springboks away from South Africa.
On Monday, those plans gained greater significance as the UK government announced its roadmap for exiting lockdown in England. Restrictions would be fully lifted by June 21, a date five days prior to when the Lions play Japan at Murrayfield in a pre-tour warm-up.
The Lions have asked the UK government to underwrite the finances involved in hosting the tour, with matches planned in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin.
As reported in The Rugby Paper, Rugby Australia have offered their assistance in staging the tour in Australia. An offer that the organisation’s chairman Hamish McLennan said was a ‘no-brainer’.
“All the Lions and South Africa need to do is say ‘yes’ and we will do the rest. The Lions will walk away with a nice cheque and so will the Springboks,” McLennan told TRP.
As the Lions grapple with its choice of hosting the tour in South Africa, the UK and Ireland, or Australia, a decision is not expected to be made until March.
South Africa resumed its vaccine rollout programme last week after bringing it to a halt earlier this month when the AstraZeneca vaccine it had ordered was found by one study to not be effective against the country’s new variant of Covid-19.
The country has accounted for more than a third of all cases on the African continent, but has secured nine million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Nonetheless, the chances of the tour going ahead as originally planned in South Africa this summer remains highly doubtful.
Any match played in South Africa would likely be held behind closed doors.