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SA Rugby confirm Lions tour shifting to autumn 2021 is being considered

South Africa hope to have their professional teams back in action by August.

SOUTH AFRICA RUGBY has confirmed that moving the 2021 Lions tour to the autumn, rather than playing it next summer as currently scheduled, is being considered.

World Rugby recently brought together a working group to examine the possibility of a major overhaul of the sport’s global calendar.

conor-murray-celebrates-after-the-game Conor Murray celebrates a Lions win in 2017. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The aim is to ensure genuine alignment of the seasons in both hemispheres and one proposal would see Test rugby played in March and April, then again in October and November.

If that proposal is carried forward, potentially as early as next year, then the Lions tour could be shifted from July and early August to October and November.

SA Rugby said today that its CEO, Jurie Roux, had “confirmed that a move to host the Lions tour later in the year was being considered to dovetail with all other Test scheduling conversations that were taking place at a World Rugby level.”

Roux himself said:

“The development of the pandemic and its varying impact around the world has made for a fluid situation and we have had to be responsive in our planning.

“That means we have looked at a number of contingencies around scheduling.

“We have those scenarios in place, but the main question now is when it will be safe for international travel and for mass gatherings. It would be a disappointment if a Lions series had to be played behind closed doors, but that is not a scenario for which we are currently planning.”

Roux also confirmed that SA Rugby is working with the South African government on return-to-train protocols for its professional teams and players, with the plan being to have them back playing in August.

SA Rugby has submitted a 500-page return-to-play manual to South Africa’s Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.

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jurie-roux SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. Source: Jordan Mansfield/World Rugby/Getty Images/INPHO

“We believe we have a comprehensive and scientifically rigorous set of protocols to minimise the risk of transmission and allow a return to competitive rugby within the next two months,” said Roux.

“We have planned meticulously for the moment and know we have the infrastructure and capacity within our professional playing environment to safely deliver those protocols.

“Rugby – and sport in general – is probably better placed than 90% of other businesses to return to normalised activities as fitness testing and wellness measurement in general are part our DNA.”

As for Test rugby in 2020 for the World champion Springboks, Roux said there are a number of possibilities.

South Africa were due to play Scotland at home twice in July before a one-off clash with Georgia, but all three of those Tests have been postponed.

The Rugby Championship against New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina is scheduled for August and September.

South Africa are also still due to play Italy, Ireland, France and Wales on their Northern Hemisphere tour in November.

“The postponed July tests could still take place here in October,” said Roux.

“Our northern hemisphere tour in November has not been cancelled and the possibility of playing the Castle Lager Rugby Championship in a single venue in ‘a bubble’ has also been workshopped.

“But those all remain unconfirmed and reliant on factors outside of our control. But we also have a few other ideas up our sleeve, which we’re quite excited about, and will announce if and when they become necessary.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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