The Lions Board confirmed its preference to SA Rugby on Monday evening, prior to follow-up meetings earlier today (Tuesday).
“After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the Board’s intended position is for the Tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021,” said Jason Leonard, chairman of The British & Irish Lions.
“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.”
Mark Alexander, president of the SA Rugby, said he would inform the Executive Council of the South African Rugby Union of the alignment.
“We appreciate the Lions’ faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” said Alexander.
“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.”
Alexander said the original tour schedule was subject to review because of those considerations. Should any changes be required they will be communicated as soon as possible.
Leonard added: “Every British and Irish player dreams of wearing the famous red jersey, and players from the southern hemisphere aspire to be part of a Lions series. We owe it to the current players vying for a place in both squads to ensure they can become part of Lions history.
“We are very much looking forward to taking on South Africa for what promises to be a highly-competitive Series against the reigning World Champions.”
Alexander thanked the Castle Lager Lions Series’ commercial partners as well as the British & Irish Lions and ticket holders for their patience during the extended period of uncertainty.
“As hosts and ‘owners’ of the Castle Lager Lions Series no one has been more affected or more challenged by the current circumstances than SA Rugby,” said Alexander. “However, with the support of our government and good planning we can navigate the pandemic to nonetheless create a most memorable event for players, fans and partners.”
It is not yet known whether international or cross-border travel for supporters will be possible into the country in July. Supporters who have purchased ticket-inclusive packages through Lions Rugby Travel will be notified directly via email with information on the options available.
The Lions remind supporters that all packages purchased through Lions Rugby Travel are protected by the Covid-19 guarantee*. Supporters who have booked packages with official sub agents should contact them directly. For the latest guidance on travelling to South Africa please visit the UK Foreign Office website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-africa or the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs website: https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/a-z-list-of-countries/south-africa/
At this time, it also remains unclear whether spectators will be permitted into stadia in July and August. SA Rugby and the Lions continue to work with relevant South African Government departments to ascertain the latest guidance on COVID-19 countermeasure planning for major sporting events and will communicate any updates as soon as it is possible to do so.
In the event that spectators are not permitted to gain access to the Test matches, Lions supporters who had successfully purchased Test match tickets via the Lions ticket ballot will be refunded.
The British & Irish Lions Test match against Japan at BT Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday 26 June 2021 for the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup will continue as scheduled. However, a decision on crowd size will be made nearer the time of the event and in line with the latest UK Government guidance. For more information, including ticketing enquiries, please visit:
The British & Irish Lions have toured South Africa on 13 previous occasions, with the first Tour taking place in 1891. In that time, the Lions have won four Test series, lost eight with one drawn. Their overall record against the Springboks is played 46, won 17, lost 23 and drawn six.
World Rugby applies 50/22 law trial globally, bolster concussion protocol
World Rugby announced on Wednesday five law trials which will start next month, including a so-called “50/22” kicking adaptation.
The 50/22 change allows a team to gain a throw-in inside the opposition’s 22-metre area by kicking the ball to touch with at least one bounce from their own half.
The rule was used in recent Super Rugby tournaments and its primary intention is to “encourage the defensive team to put more players in the backfield, thereby creating more attacking space and reducing defensive line speed”, according to the sport’s governing body.
The other laws to come into force on a temporary basis from August 1 include a goal-line drop-out if the ball is held up in the in-goal area, if there is a knock-on from an attacking player in the same area or an attacking kick is grounded by the defenders in their own in-goal.
There are also restrictions on attacking players latching onto team-mates from a ruck and clean-outs which target or drop weight onto the lower limbs at the breakdown.
The final trial allows for a one-player latch before contact, but the individual must “observe all of the requirements for a first arriving player, particularly the need to stay on their feet”.
World Rugby has also moved to strengthen concussion protocols, with independent specialists set to review cases when Test players return to action after a head injury.
They will launch a panel of Independent Concussion Consultants (ICCs) to provide expert opinion on whether players are ready to return to action after head knocks.
The global governing body will fully fund the process for Test-level competitions, with ICCs asked to rule when players look to return to action 10 days or fewer after a concussion or on players deemed higher risk due to previous head-injury history.
England name 8 new caps for USA clash
Eddie Jones has named his England team for this weekend’s Test match against USA.
Eight uncapped players are set to make their debuts at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday 4 July (2pm KO).
Lewis Ludlow will captain the side at blind-side flanker, with Sam Underhill at open-side flanker and Callum Chick at No.8.
Ellis Genge (loose-head prop) will be vice-captain and is joined by Curtis Langdon (hooker) and Joe Heyes (tight-head prop) in the front row.
Locks Josh McNally and Charlie Ewels complete the tight five.
Henry Slade, the most-capped player in the squad, will be at outside centre with Ollie Lawrence at inside centre. Marcus Smith will start at fly half and Harry Randall is at scrum half.
Freddie Steward is at full back, while Max Malins (left) and Joe Cokanasiga (right) are on the wings in attack.
Among the finishers there are four further uncapped players who could make their first appearance for England – Jamie Blamire, Trevor Davison, Ben Curry and Jacob Umaga. Beno Obano, Ted Hill, Lewis Ludlam and Dan Robson are also named as finishers.
Jones said: “Over the past three weeks our biggest message to the players is what an opportunity this is to show what they can do and make their mark with England.
“They’ve applied themselves as a group and worked very hard individually during this camp to reach their personal bests.
“Now it’s all about coming together as a team, gelling and putting in a good performance at the weekend.”
England v USA is live on Channel 4, with coverage starting from 1.30pm.
England XV Starters
15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
14. Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 9 caps)
13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 38 caps)
12. Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors, 6 caps)
11. Max Malins (Saracens, 7 caps)
10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, uncapped)
9. Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, uncapped)
1. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 28 caps)
2. Curtis Langdon (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
3. Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
4. Josh McNally (Bath Rugby, uncapped)
5. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 21 caps)
6. Lewis Ludlow (C) (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped)
7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 22 caps)
8. Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)
16. Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)
17. Beno Obano (Bath Rugby, 1 cap)
18. Trevor Davison (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)
19. Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, 1 cap)
20. Ben Curry (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
21. Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 8 caps)
22. Dan Robson (Wasps, 12 caps)
23. Jacob Umaga (Wasps, uncapped)
James Ryan starts for Ireland v Japan
The Ireland coaching team have named the Ireland match day squad to face Japan at the Aviva Stadium in the opening fixture of the Vodafone Summer Series.
James Ryan will wear the captain’s armband on Saturday and will be partnered in the second row by Ultan Dillane.
Peter O’Mahony starts on the blindside flank and is joined in the backrow by Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris, who makes his international return after missing the 2021 Six Nations Championships.
The front row is made up of Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher and Finlay Bealham.
The replacements include Rob Herring, Ed Byrne, John Ryan, Ryan Baird, the uncapped Gavin Coombes, Craig Casey, Billy Burns and Shane Daly.
Last weekend Jamie Joseph’s Brave Blossoms made the British and Irish Lions work hard for their 28-10 victory in Murrayfield.
Five Ireland players – Chris Farrell, Jacob Stockdale, Josh van der Flier, Peter O’Mahony and James Ryan started against Japan in the last encounter between the two sides at the 2019 Rugby World Cup with Dave Kilcoyne, Joey Carbery and Jordan Larmour featuring off the bench that day in Shizuoka.
The match will be televised by RTE (ROI) Channel 4 (NI) and kicks off at 1.00pm.
Vodafone Summer Series 2021
Ireland team to play Japan – 3rd July 2021, Aviva Stadium
15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 11 caps
14. Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 29 caps
13. Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 14 caps
12. Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 4 caps
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 34 caps
10. Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 22 caps
9. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 9 caps
1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 43 caps
2. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 11 caps
3. Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 14 caps
4. Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 18 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 35 caps captain
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 75 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 31 caps
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster/UCD) 7 caps
16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 21 caps
17. Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 4 caps
18. John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution) 23 caps
19. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 3 caps
20. Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) uncapped
21. Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 1 cap
22. Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
23. Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution) 1 cap
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