Clive Woodward and Ian McGeechan both believe the decision to go ahead with the British & Irish Lions tour in South Africa as initially planned was the right one.
There was increasing doubt about the tour going ahead as rumours started circulating that the British & Irish Lions tour could be relocated to the UK or even postponed due to the devastating second wave of Covid-19 infections worldwide.
But, on Tuesday, it was confirmed that the eight-match tour is set to go ahead in South Africa as originally planned, after the contingency to relocate the tour to the UK was dismissed by the Lions board.
However, SA Rugby did announce that the tour schedule is subject to review due to the pandemic and its predicted progression and that venues are to be confirmed.
Despite the possibility that the tour will go ahead behind closed doors with no fans allowed inside stadiums, Woodward wrote in his Daily Mail column that the right call had been made because ‘touring is what the British & Irish Lions is all about’.
‘This is the right call. The tour had to take place this year or not at all and although playing it here seemed a serious option – and the possibility of limited crowds was appealing – it still didn’t feel quite right.
‘South Africa would have become the touring team and the underdogs who needed the warm-up matches with the home unions as hosts. That would have changed the entire dynamic of what the Lions are about.
‘Of course, it would have been great to have crowds but it’s such a fluid situation here with talk only on Tuesday of a third Covid wave. At least we now have a decision and all concerned can concentrate on making this work.
‘I am assuming there will be a quarantine period on arrival in South Africa and then the tour party will move around in a strict bubble.
‘The hotels will become the squad’s refuge. The players and staff will have to be happy in each other’s company. I can see the players’ court coming back into fashion, along with quiz nights.
‘Whatever it takes to remain “together” and upbeat. The Lions might even become singers again like the teams of old. Let’s face it, there are going to be a fair few Welsh involved!’
Meanwhile former Scotland player and coach Ian McGeechan has also backed the call to host the Lions tour in South Africa.
‘While a tour of empty stadiums in South Africa is no one’s idea of an ideal Lions tour, at least we get that sense of a proper tour as the Test side gradually emerges, while the whole country gets to see the spectacle in prime time.
‘The 1997 tour changed the Lions forever and brought the concept to a whole new audience of non-rugby fans and those with a casual interest in the game. Hopefully the 2021 version can carry on where 1997 started. In our current circumstances with the pandemic, the Lions is still the team to put a smile on faces and create the feel-good factor.’
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