England RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney says the British & Irish Lions would prefer to tour South Africa but, failing that, will only tour again in 2025.
SARugbymag.co.za has independently verified that information around the tour now taking place as originally planned in South Africa is accurate, and this has been communicated in local rugby circles.
The Lions will open their tour against the Stormers in Cape Town on 3 July, and while the series may have to take place behind closed doors, there is hope that some capacity for fans could be accommodated.
Of course, this will all depend on the status of the pandemic in South Africa at the time.
Speaking to media in the UK, Sweeney confirmed that the contingency plan of staging the tour in the UK appears increasingly unviable and that discussions to keep the tour in SA are at an advanced stage.
‘We’re running out of time for a UK option, frankly. The days are ticking by,’ Sweeney said.
‘The preferred position has always been to go to South Africa and play in South Africa, either with crowds or behind closed doors.
‘We’re in a critical dialogue to confirm what they’re capable of doing around the Lions going to South Africa.’
RFU CEO Bill Sweeney on Lions, “It was always the preferred option to go to SA, that was always the case.”
On Springboks: “We believe they’re saying they can [host] but we’re running out of runway on a UK option.”
If they can’t host, Sweeney says it might be too late for UK.
— Nick Heath (@nickheathsport) March 23, 2021
RFU chief exec Bill Sweeney on the Lions: “If South Africa cannot host then the agreement is probably off. We’d be looking to play in 2025.”
— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) March 23, 2021
Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Getty Images