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What should happen with the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour?

There appear to be three options as Lions bosses meet in the next month.

Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton in New Zealand on the 2017 Lions tour.
Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton in New Zealand on the 2017 Lions tour.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

ACCORDING TO THE current schedule, the 2021 Lions tour is due to kick-off in just over five months’ time with Warren Gatland’s squad facing Japan in Murrayfield before they fly out to South Africa.

However, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues with the latest severe wave in South African and Europe, major doubts have been raised about the viability of the Lions tour.

Lions bosses are due to meet in the next month to discuss their possible options, of which there appear to be three:

  • Tour South Africa as planned without any travelling fans or crowds in stadiums
  • Rearrange the Test series and some warm-up games to be played in the UK and Ireland, hoping fans will be able to attend
  • Postpone the tour until 2022

None of these options are close to ideal. Touring South Africa without any supporters would arguably take away everything that is good about the Lions and their travelling horde.

As things stand, South Africa appears to be well behind Ireland and the UK in terms of vaccination plans, meaning it is extremely unlikely that fans will be able to attend games.

The potential of hosting the series in the UK and Ireland would bring no guarantee of having supporters at games, while it would remove the traditional touring aspect of the Lions. Already, nearly 2,000 supporters have signed a petition arguing that this should not happen.

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However, with all rugby unions already under financial pressure, the TV revenue from the Lions tour is seen as crucial even if fans cannot be there.

Postponing the tour until 2022 might mean having travelling supporters and full houses at games and, but Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland already have their own touring plans that summer, with Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad due to visit New Zealand for a three-Test series.

The summer of 2022 is just over a year out from the 2023 World Cup and is viewed as an essential part of the preparation for that tournament by the national team coaches. As such, postponement is not favoured by the home unions that make up the Lions.

We want to know what you think should happen with the 2021 Lions tour? What’s the best option given the current Covid-19 situation?

How important is it that the Lions tour involves travelling fans? Or does the sport simply need the tour to go ahead this year even if supporters can only watch it on TV?

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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