Former British & Irish Lions captain Willie John McBride has laid into the upcoming tour of South Africa, insisting it should have been postponed.
McBride is considered one of the Lions’ most famous former players, having led the ‘Invincibles’ team to a series win in South Africa in 1974.
The Irishman spoke to the Rugby Paper, giving a scathing opinion on this year’s tour to be held in two bio-bubbles in Gauteng and the Western Cape due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The team begin their tour by facing the Lions, Sharks and Bulls in Johannesburg and Pretoria, before games against South Africa A, the Stormers and the first Test against the Springboks in Cape Town. The Lions will then return to Johannesburg for the final two Tests of the series at the FNB Stadium.
However, the games are more than likely to take place without fans in the stadiums, and definitely without the travelling Lions support, something McBride believes has ‘destroyed’ the concept of the team.
‘It’s a nonsense,’ McBride said. ‘A total nonsense. It should have been postponed. The concept of the Lions has been destroyed. It is now purely about the money.
‘What sort of tour is it when there won’t be any fans? Let’s be honest, this is a non-tour.’
McBride also criticised the warm-up fixture between the Lions and Japan, scheduled to take place in Edinburgh on 26 June in front of some 16,000 supporters.
‘If there’s a few bob to be made in some stupid game they go ahead and arrange one. The Lions should never play at home and yet they’re playing this game against Japan. It’s all about making money.
‘A Lions tour has always been about more than playing matches. There’s no other sport I know which brings the best players of four countries together to play overseas. We used to take the game to every corner of the country we were visiting. That’s all gone and I find it absolutely dreadful for the game I love.’
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