The tour will begin on July 3rd, but is set to finish five weeks later, with head coach Warren Gatland already voicing his concerns over the short turnaround between the eight fixtures. As well as that, the tour’s first game is set to be only a week after the English Premiership final, leaving players little time to prepare together.
Some have suggested that like the Guinness PRO14, the Premiership may bring their final forward by a week to allow Gatland have an entire squad.
As well as their fixtures in South Africa it is thought that the Lions are keen on having a game a week before their first official fixture, more than likely against a Barbarians side, which would be a hugely entertaining match-up.
First up for the Lions when they head to South Africa is a clash with Super Rugby side the Stormers in Cape Town on July 3rd, before a match against a South African invitational side on the 7th in Port Elizabeth.
On the 10th they head to Durban to take on fellow Super Rugby franchise the Sharks, before another short turnaround to take on South Africa A on the 14th Nelspruit.
They take on their final Super Rugby opponents in the form of the Bulls on the 17th in Pretoria, before beginning their three match series against the Boks.
The first of those games will be held in Johannesburg on the 24th, with the second a week later in Cape Town and the final game will be on August 7th back in Johannesburg. The first and third game will be played at high altitude which will add to the difficulty of the task.
Speaking on the announcement, Gatland, who is taking charge of his third Lions tour following a series win in Australia in 2013 and a draw in New Zealand four years later is relishing the challenge despite his concerns over a lack of preparation time.
“I am absolutely thrilled with how this schedule looks. Touring South Africa is always a huge challenge, not only from a rugby perspective, but also in terms of the venues and the conditions facing the players. We are very comfortable that three of the games, two of which are Test matches, will be played at altitude. Our schedule falls in a way to allow us to start at sea level before building up and acclimatising to the unique environment that playing at altitude presents. Ensuring the team are absolutely primed for the Test matches is a critical element of any Lions tour, and I am confident the quality of opposition we will face in the opening weeks will get us ready to take on the Springboks. The Bulls, Sharks and Stormers are all tough sides and present different challenges, which is exactly what we want,” he said.
The Lions will need to be at full strength if they are to record a series win in South Africa, with the Boks being crowned World Cup champions last month and looking like they are only going to get better.
It is set to be another incredible tour and hopefully the short turnaround between the end of the season and between games doesn’t have too much of an effect on the outcome of the series.
Check Out the Schedule Below:
July 3: Stormers (Cape Town)
July 7: South Africa ‘Invitational’ (Port Elizabeth)
July 10: Sharks (Durban)
July 14: South Africa A (Nelspruit)
July 17: Bulls (Pretoria)
July 24: South Africa (Johannesburg)
July 31: South Africa (Cape Town)
August 7: South Africa (Johannesburg)
England Coach Set for Departure
England have confirmed that one of their coaches will leave at the end of the season and they already have his replacement sorted
England have confirmed that assistant coach Steve Borthwick will leave his role come the end of the season.
The 57-cap former England international has been involved with head coach Eddie Jones since 2012, having previously held the role of Japan’s forwards coach.
However, in 2016 the two left for England, during which time they have picked up two Six Nations crowns and made it to the Rugby World Cup final last year, but Borthwick admits following the tournament in Japan he made the decision to call time on his current role.
“I am very proud of what we have achieved as a team since 2016, culminating in a Rugby World Cup Final last year. Having come back from Japan, spent time with my family and reflected on my time with England, I have decided to step away from the role towards the end of the season,” he said.
Speaking on his departure head coach Eddie Jones praised his assistant’s impact and confirmed he will be missed around the camp.
“I have had a great seven years with Steve. He is a loyal, hard-working and analytical coach but I understand he needs now to get out on his own following this campaign. He’s made that decision and we are really pleased for him. He created a great lineout for England and really developed the young guys. If you look at someone like Maro Itoje, he’s become a world-class lock under Steve. He has also turned our maul into a weapon for us and he’s done brilliant work co-ordinating the England programme. We will miss him greatly,” he said.
The Rugby Football Union have already announced that Jason Ryle will take on the position in November and he is delighted to have the opportunity.
“I am really excited about the opportunity to work in a world-class programme with the England national team and someone like Eddie with his experience is very appealing for me. It will be a real honour to work with some of the best coaches and so many quality England player,” he said.
Ryle is currently the assistant coach at Australian rugby league side Melbourne Storm, where he has been since 2016, but this will be a huge step up for him.
Wales to Face Japan in the Summer
Wales have confirmed that they will play Japan in the summer along with their clashes with the All Blacks
Wales have announced that they will take on Japan in the far east this summer with the venue to be confirmed in due course.
It will be Wales’ first time back to Japan since their Rugby World Cup campaign last year, where they went on to finish fourth following a semi-final loss to eventual winners South Africa and another loss to the All Blacks in the third-place play-off.
The match will take place on June 27th, ahead of the team’s trip to New Zealand where they will play two tests against the mighty All Blacks and head coach Wayne Pivac is looking forward to the recent World Cup hosts.
“Going back to Japan for Wales will be a really big fixture on the back of a really successful Rugby World Cup for Japan as hosts both on and off the field. The squad and Welsh Rugby Union made a huge impression on the country in the lead up to and during the World Cup and attracted a lot of local support so it will be great to take the squad back to Japan for the first summer test,” he said.
Wales’ neighbours England are also set for a return to Japan in the summer, with Eddie Jones’ side set for a two-test series against the Brave Blossoms.
It is a huge boost for the Japanese team, who will now get to face some top-tier nations following their incredible World Cup displays and will now have the chance to continue their progression at the top-level of the game.
Huge Relief for Jones Ahead of Six Nations
Eddie Jones will be a relieved man with one of his key men set to return from injury this weekend
The England star left the field of play in the 65th minute of that match and the worst was feared as medical staff helped him come off.
It is a massive boost for Jones, who lost his star early in the Rugby World Cup final last year due to concussion and would have been worried that he would once again be without him for the country’s Six Nations opening game against France on February 2nd.
If he can stay fit between now and then Sinckler appears to be nailed on for a starting role in what will be the team’s first game since their World Cup loss to South Africa.
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