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Lions tour to South Africa to proceed as planned from July

This summer's British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa will go ahead as planned.  An offic...

This summer's British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa will go ahead as planned. 

An official announcement was made by Lions organisers on Tuesday afternoon.

The Lions are due to begin an eight-match tour against the Stormers in Cape Town on July 3.

Three tests against the World Cup-winning Springboks will follow on July 24 (Johannesburg), July 31 (Cape Town) and August 7 (Johannesburg).

COVID-19 travel restrictions had put the tour in serious doubt, with various contingency plans - real or imagined - being tossed around in recent weeks.

It had been mooted that the tour could be played on 'home' soil to cut down on the travel aspect, or that Australia could serve as surrogate hosts.

The latter option was formally rejected by Lions chiefs earlier this month.

The former was at least explored in more detail, with Japan, USA, the French Barbarians and South Africa ‘A’ lined up as potential opponents at venues like Wembley Stadium and St. James's Park.

"After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, said Lions chairman Jason Leonard, "I can confirm that the Board’s intended position is for the Tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021.

“We acknowledge that there is a significant amount of work still to be undertaken to deliver a robust COVID-19 countermeasure plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted Tour. SA Rugby will have our full support to help implement this plan.”

It's believed the costs involved in the various contingency plans - including the British government's unwillingness to financially underwrite a 'home' series - ultimately killed them.

Whether or not fans will be in attendance in South Africa is yet to be determined. With dropping infection rates, and easing restrictions in the country it is feasible that by July at least some spectators may be present.

It's also not yet known if fans from abroad will be allowed travel to South Africa for the series.

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said, "We appreciate the Lions’ faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour.

“We have been in regular contact with our government to make that a reality against the backdrop of the pandemic and its predicted progression over the coming months.

“There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby, should the event take place without any supporters in attendance, and we cannot ignore that in our considerations.

"But we are determined that the eventual outcome will deliver the best occasion and experience for players, supporters and our commercial partners.”

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