The Lions UK & Ireland 2021 tour of South Africa will go ahead as planned after officials said on Tuesday they had rejected the idea of holding a series in Britain and were now looking at only one option.
A joint statement from Lions and SA Rugby said they were “in line” in South Africa as a venue for this year’s tour, with plans for a UK or Australia based series ruled out.
“After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios under consideration, I can confirm that the intended board position is for the Tour to continue as scheduled in South Africa in 2021,” said British & Irish Lion Chairman Jason Leonard.
“We acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to be done to provide a strong COVID-19 response plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted Tour.
“SA Rugby will have our full support to help carry out this plan.”
The July-August tour has been in uncertainty for months due to the COVID-19 situation in South Africa.
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said they hope to convince their government to allow fans into the stadium.
“We appreciate the Lions’ belief and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” he said.
“We have been in regular contact with our government to make this happen against the backdrop of the pandemic and its forecast for the coming months.
“There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby, if the event takes place without any supporters present, and we cannot ignore that in our judgment.”
Earlier, Rugby Football Union chairman Bill Sweeney, who sits on the Lions board, said tours should continue this year because 2022 is not an option.
“If they [SA Rugby] can’t save it then the agreement is canceled. We may run out of time in England. So you’re looking at playing in 2025, “he said.