Former British & Irish Lions captain Willie John McBride warns that the team’s culture could be forever damaged if they host the Springboks in July.
The eight-man Lions board held a meeting on Friday as discussions intensified around whether or not to continue with the tour of South Africa in July and August, amid concerns that games would have to be played in empty stadiums due to a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A decision about the tour has yet to be made, but the Lions board has reportedly already started drawing up contingency plans to hold the series in the UK and Ireland. This would potentially have the Lions face the Springboks at Twickenham, Cardiff and Dublin, while South Africa’s provincial teams – such as the Sharks and Vodacom Bulls – would play at football stadiums such as St James’ Park in Newcastle and Villa Park in Birmingham.
However, McBride, one of the Lions’ most famous former players who led the ‘Invincibles’ team to a series win in South Africa in 1974, told the Telegraph that such a move could have dire ramifications for the tourists.
‘It would defeat the entire ethos of the Lions if they play a few games here in the home countries,’ McBride said. ‘It would be a disgrace. It will defeat everything the Lions stand for.
‘It is not a Lions tour, or a Lions concept of any sorts, to play anything here in the home countries. You have to play it in South Africa. In my view they should postpone it until next year.
‘Let’s not lose the concept of what the Lions is all about. If they have to postpone it for three years, it would not matter to me, as long as they retain the concept of what the Lions are all about. It would damage the Lions forever.’
Meanwhile, fans have started a petition to keep the tour in South Africa and instead postpone it until 2022, with the concern over how holding it in the UK would impact the South African tourism industry.
The petition currently has over 3,000 signatures, but is aiming for 30,000 to present a compelling case as to why the tour should be moved to 2022.
Postponing the tour until 2022 would, however, require a rescheduling of next year’s Test windows, with a schedule already in place for England to visit Australia while Ireland are set to face New Zealand next year.
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