Lions chairman Jason Leonard accepts ‘we’re not going to have traditional tour’

The Lions board and South African Rugby have committed to pressing ahead with the tour in the home of the world champions.

By Press Association Published: 2 April 2021 - 9.00pm
Rugby Union

South Africa

British & Irish Lions

British and Irish Lions chairman Jason Leonard accepts the summer tour to South Africa will be unlike any before it because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Both the Lions board and South African Rugby have committed to pressing ahead with the tour in the home of the world champions, although changes to the original itinerary are likely.

A fixture against the Stormers in Cape Town on July 3 is scheduled to launch a quest that culminates in a three-Test series against the Springboks, but the number of cities visited could be significantly reduced.

“We’re looking at all options. The only thing that’s 100 per cent is we’re not going to have a traditional Lions tour in whatever shape or form,” Leonard said.

“We won’t get the tour we want, South Africa won’t get the tour they want, the players most probably won’t get the tour they want and the fans won’t get the fan experience they want.”

All contingency options, including postponement and holding the tour in the UK, were officially ruled out last week. If the challenges of staging the event as planned prove insurmountable, then it will be cancelled.

“South Africa have confirmed they can host a tour. They’re confident of delivering it in the environment we need it to be in, based on medical and scientific requirements,” Leonard said.

South Africa are the reigning world champions
South Africa are the reigning world champions (David Davies/PA)

“I’m talking to you now on a Friday afternoon and it could have all changed again by Monday. That is the issue everyone has, but it’s an issue in life in the world we’re living in at the moment.

“The pandemic has created an enormous amount of uncertainty so we have to recognise that it (cancellation) could be a possibility, but we are not thinking about that. We are determined to help South Africa with the tour and go forward.

“It’s not a gamble because you’ve seen other tours taking place at this moment of time in the world. But I wouldn’t say anything is 100 per cent nailed on.”

All matches could take place behind closed doors, but Leonard has not given up hope on a travelling contingent being present.

“We’re hoping that there will be crowds, but we don’t know what that will be like,” Leonard

“We would hope that would be UK and Ireland fans as well but because it’s so fluid, we can’t say that at this moment in time.

“We’re hoping as we move down the line in a few months’ time that could well be possible. Everyone involved would obviously love fans in the stadium, our fans as well and not just the South African fans.”

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