Lions confirm they will travel to South Africa for tour, despite Covid concerns
"They will have our full support to help implement this plan."
The British & Irish Lions have announced that they intend to honour their commitment to travel to South Africa for the 2021 tour, which will see them face the world champion Springboks in a Three-Test Series.
The Lions Board, it has been confirmed, confirmed its preference to South Africa Rugby on Monday evening, prior to follow-up meetings earlier today. Their chairman, former England and Lions forward Jason Leonard stated:
"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.
"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."
The original tour schedule is 'subject to review' because of those financial, travel and Covid considerations. Should any changes be required they will be communicated as soon as possible.
It is not yet known if there will there be any fans allowed into stadiums, be they Lions or Springboks supporters, or whether there will be international or cross-border travel permitted. Should no fans be allowed attend games, or travel to South Africa from abroad, full refunds will be provided.
"Every British and Irish player dreams of wearing the famous red jersey," Leonard added, "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.”