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Lions tour of South Africa in doubt after discovery of COVID-19 variants

The British and Irish Lions tour in South Africa could be called off following new strains of the COVID-19 virus in both England and South Africa, according to managing director Ben Calveley.

english and irish lions owen farrell ben calvely south africa covid-19 variant in doubt

The new, highly infectious strains, could see the tour called off despite being scheduled to take place this summer.

The tour comprises of eight-matches in a three-Test series against the Springboks. The Lions, a touring rugby union side who include players from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, were set to depart on June 27 for the tour.

Calvely believes that a decision should be made early, with February having been set as the deadline.

“As you would expect, we are progressing with our plans based on the latest information available to us,” Calveley said.

“However, given the uncertainty that continues to be caused by the coronavirus pandemic both in South Africa, as well as the UK and Ireland, we are very aware of the need to make a timely decision on the best way forward.

“Not least this is so that we can provide clarity to supporters booked to travel to South Africa next summer, or those thinking of making the trip.

“To date, the Lions board has had repeated meetings to discuss all scenarios available and is in constant dialogue.

“It will meet throughout January and into February, if required, to review all relevant information and data.”

He added: “In the meantime, we continue regular discussion with our partners in the UK, Ireland and South Africa, including the British High Commission in Pretoria, the Irish Embassy and various government departments, to ascertain as much information as possible on this fast-evolving, complex situation.”

Former England outside-half Andy Goode said that if the Lions Tour was to be cancelled, the Six Nations could be rescheduled to fill the gap and possibly at a time when supports would be allowed back into stadiums, however, this could prove to be difficult for broadcasters who have commitments to other sports, including the summer Olympic Games.

Author: Jake Wilkin