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British and Irish Lions supporters start petition pleading with home nations to shelve any plans to forego South Africa 2021 trip and host first ever domestic tour as more than 1,400 fans sign it within 24 hours

British and Irish Lions fans have started a petition asking the home nations to drop any plan of hosting the next tour in the UK.

Warren Gatland’s side is set to tour South Africa this summer, with the plan as things stand for it to go ahead. 

However, due to the current pandemic alternative arrangements are being drawn up, including the prospect of a first-ever home tour. 

British and Irish Lions supporters start petition pleading with home nations to shelve any plans to forego South Africa 2021 trip and host first ever domestic tour as more than 1,400 fans sign it within 24 hours
British and Irish Lions supporters start petition pleading with home nations to shelve any plans to forego South Africa 2021 trip and host first ever domestic tour as more than 1,400 fans sign it within 24 hours

A decision is set to be made by early next month on whether to press ahead or make alternative arrangements, with the preference being to move the tour to 2022.

However, the fierce resistance to that proposal from some home nations, as reported by Sportsmail last week, leaves the possibility of a UK tour a real option.

As a result, fans have fought back, pleading with the powers that be to come to an arrangement that would allow the series to be moved back a year. 

The petition on Change.org, started by Mark Gardner, stated: ‘Covid-19 will almost certainly prevent the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour from taking place in the host country of South Africa.

‘We are petitioning for the home nations of England (RFU), Scotland (SRU), Ireland (IRFU) Wales (WRU) who collectively make up the British & Irish Lions Board, and South Africa (SA Rugby) to do the right thing by agreeing to switch the Lions tour to 2022, placing this before the needs of their own country’s proposed summer tours. 

British and Irish Lions supporters start petition pleading with home nations to shelve any plans to forego South Africa 2021 trip and host first ever domestic tour as more than 1,400 fans sign it within 24 hours
British and Irish Lions supporters start petition pleading with home nations to shelve any plans to forego South Africa 2021 trip and host first ever domestic tour as more than 1,400 fans sign it within 24 hours

‘The Lions requires only 36 players from across the four home nations.

‘A well-documented UK-hosted replacement Series in July 2021 not only dilutes the rich touring history of the Lions, it denies South Africa’s fans, stadia, businesses, and whole tourism infrastructure the opportunity to host, impress and benefit from the 30,000 fans expected to follow the world’s most passionate invitational touring team.’

 As of 3pm on Tuesday afternoon, the petition had already garnered 1,457 signatures after just 24 hours after being set up. 

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British lions: Boks have to be at their best to beat Lions

Former Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez says the British & Irish Lions have ‘all the ingredients’ to make the 2021 tour of South Africa successful. Rugby fans can book British lions 2021 tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.

Du Preez was a major part of the Springbok team which claimed a 2-1 series victory over the Lions during their previous tour of South Africa in 2009.

British lions: Boks have to be at their best to beat Lions
British lions: Boks have to be at their best to beat Lions

Since then, the Lions have come under the tutelage of former Wales coach Warren Gatland, who has taken the invitational team to a series win over Australia in 2013 and a drawn series with the All Blacks in 2017 and will be coaching the team again in South Africa.

Gatland’s Wales’s team also had a good record against the Springboks, having gone on a four-match winning run between 2016 and 2018, which South Africa managed to bring to an end in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals.

Speaking to Rugby World magazine, Du Preez said Gatland’s knowledge combined with the ominous form of the United Kingdom nations mean that the Springboks will have to be at their very best if they hope to claim a series victory in July.

‘The Lions weren’t ready for that first Test in 2009. I doubt they will make the same mistake in 2021,’ Du Preez said.

British lions: Boks have to be at their best to beat Lions

‘Warren Gatland has been successful on past tours to Australia and New Zealand. He knows what’s required in South Africa, having been part of the coaching team in 2009 and having been head coach of Wales for so long.

‘England have been playing good rugby and winning big matches. Ireland has a lot of good players, and there are a few from Scotland, too. Gatland will know how to get the best out of the Welsh players.

‘The Lions certainly have all the ingredients for a successful tour. The Boks will have to be at their very best to come out on top.’

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B&I Playing South Africa tests in UK & Ireland is a contingency plan

The British and Irish Lions series with South Africa could be held in the UK and Ireland if Covid-19 prevents fans from traveling.

That is among the contingency plans discussed by the Lions board in the event the trip has to be abandoned. Rugby fans can book British lions 2021 tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.

Instead, games would be played in Edinburgh, London, Cardiff, and Dublin.

The South African rugby union has previously made it clear that a tour without visiting fans would not be commercially viable for them.

B&I Playing South Africa tests in UK & Ireland is a contingency plan
B&I Playing South Africa tests in UK & Ireland is a contingency plan

The Lions board is also thought to be unenthusiastic about the Idea.

However, it is hoped that a vaccine would allow for fans to attend games in the UK by summer.

In a statement on Saturday, the Lions board announced that they had been having “repeated meetings to discuss all scenarios available and is in constant dialogue”.

A warm-up contest with Japan is already scheduled for Murrayfield in Edinburgh on 26 June.

After that, the original plan is for the Lions to travel to South Africa to play five provincial games before the three-Test series against the world champions.

The revised plan would likely see the Test matches held at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium and Wembley and Twickenham in London.

Government restrictions currently forbid fans from attending, but even if restrictions are lifted, the Lions board is worried that such a large movement of people could put any Covid-19 recovery in jeopardy.

It had been mooted that the tour might be delayed until 2022, but all four nations have Test matches scheduled for that summer window and are not keen on that switch.

Lions managing director Ben Calveley said: “It will meet throughout January and into February, if required, to review all relevant information and data.

“After further consultation with SA Rugby, we will update on the outcome of these meetings in due course.”

The case to play in Britain & Ireland

Former Lions tourist Ugo Monye on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast

Imagine Old Trafford, St James’ Park, Wembley Stadium, Millennium Stadium, Murrayfield – for me that would be unbelievable.

But we don’t have the certainty in the UK to be able to host any sport at the moment. The idea could only be entertained if we fully believe we can have crowds back so the Lions could make more money out of it – because that’s what it’s going to come down to.

B&I Playing South Africa tests in UK & Ireland is a contingency plan
B&I Playing South Africa tests in UK & Ireland is a contingency plan

The case to postpone until 2022

Monye on delaying until the year before the World Cup and the impact on player welfare

You’ve played uninterrupted Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup, then you have a six or seven-week tour with the Lions. Then you have a short pre-season before you’re back into the club season.

On the tour I went on, I think there were seven or eight English guys on that tour. I think everyone bar two players had major surgery that following season.

BBC Sport rugby correspondent Chris Jones

The whole point of a Lions tour is the band of brothers going into hostile environments away from home. The Lions tour should be done in South Africa with traveling fans or not done at all.

The case to play in South Africa without fans

Monye, who toured South Africa with the Lions in 2009

We know the cash injection it gives to these Southern Hemisphere nations every 12 years. They need it. It’s just not worth it. The fans, just like the Six Nations, are such an integral part of the experience.

It plays a massive factor in the success of a team. You have got 10s of thousands of fans who have probably already booked to go there. Behind closed doors, it doesn’t interest me. I wouldn’t even table it as an option.”

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Postpone British and Irish Lions tour if the need arises

Postponing the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa until 2022 is the most credible contingency if the series could not proceed with crowd attendance, writes DYLAN JACK.

It’s something South African fans have desperately been avoiding to think about, but the reality is that the second coronavirus wave currently looks set to have an unavoidable impact on the 2021 series. Rugby fans can book British lions 2021 tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.

The adage in sport is that things can change very quickly over a few months, but the logistics involved in either moving, cancelling or postponing the tour mean that a decision will have to be taken sooner rather than later.

Postpone British and Irish Lions tour if the need arises
Postpone British and Irish Lions tour if the need arises

There is plenty riding on the tour, especially for SA Rugby, who knows the value of hosting this high-profile marquee event. In the current Covid-19-affected environment, it’s a tour of, particularly immense value.

That’s without mentioning that the Springboks have not been in action since the 2019 World Cup final after it was decided to withdraw from the Australia-hosted Rugby Championship, to ensure that players are at peak fitness for the Lions tour.

‘We are looking at several different contingencies around what happens if Covid continues in the way that it currently does,’ SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux told the South African media back in August last year. ‘Obviously, the first prize is that that doesn’t happen. Second prize is that there are some restrictions and we can manage in those restrictions.

‘To be fair, no spectators and an inability for people to travel would commercially not make this viable and there would be a serious reconsideration on how we then continue in terms of the tour.’

As far as contingencies go, it is clear that with so much riding on it, cancelling the tour is just not an option SA Rugby could afford at this stage.

Another interesting suggestion which has gained a bit of traction is to instead see the Springboks tour the United Kingdom in July, with warm-up fixtures against Japan and PRO14 title-holders Leinster before the three-Test series against the Lions in London, Cardiff and Dublin.

If spectators are allowed back in stadiums in the northern hemisphere by then, this is certainly a suggestion which has legs, especially considering the large South African ex-pat community currently residing in the UK.

Postpone British and Irish Lions tour if the need arises
Postpone British and Irish Lions tour if the need arises

It has also been proposed that the Lions instead return to either New Zealand or Australia, who have both recently been able to welcome crowds back to their respective stadiums. This would, however, mean that the invitational team could only return to South Africa in 2032 if the current rotational policy is abided by.

First prize has to be keeping the tour in South Africa. As the Springboks are the current World Cup holders, a series against the British & Irish Lions would hold more intrigue than any other. Given how difficult 2020 was for South Africa, the country needs something to look forward to and travelling fans from the UK will undoubtedly boost the country’s tourism sector.

That is why when a decision has to be made, the thought should be around postponing the tour until it is safe for fans to travel to South Africa.

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SA countdown to B&I Lions tour boosted by Rainbow Cup

Guinness PRO14 to conclude in March ahead of Rainbow Cup; South Africa’s Super teams – Bulls, Lions, Sharks, and Stormers will all be involved in Rainbow Cup; major boost for South Africa ahead of British & Irish Lions tour next year. Rugby fans can book British lions 2021 tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.

South Africa’s preparations for the British & Irish Lions tour next year have been given a significant boost after it was confirmed their four major franchises will compete in the Rainbow Cup against PRO14 clubs.

SA countdown to B&I Lions tour boosted by Rainbow Cup

The competition will get underway on April 17 next year and see the Bulls, Lions, Sharks, and Stormers, who all previously competed in Super Rugby, face teams from Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Italy that will all tour South Africa at some stage in the campaign.

“The timing of the Rainbow Cup is perfect,” director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said in a media release from South African Rugby on Wednesday.

“It will finally get our Super (Rugby) teams back into international competition after a year’s absence and comes at the ideal time as preparation for the tour by the British & Irish Lions.

“It will be a step-up from the domestic competition and remind our players of the different type of rugby they can expect when the Lions are here.

“Our players will be facing many of the players that will be in Warren Gatland’s squad and it will be very interesting to see how our players adapt to the challenge.”

The Lions are set to tour South Africa for eight matches, the final three of which are tests against the world champion Springboks, from July 3-Aug 7.

SA countdown to B&I Lions tour boosted by Rainbow Cup
SA countdown to B&I Lions tour boosted by Rainbow Cup

The 16 teams in the Rainbow Cup will be divided into two pools of eight, made up of two Irish, two South African, two Welsh, one Italian, and one Scottish club.

Each team will play one game against each pool opponent and the sides that finish top of their pools will face off in a final on June 19.

According to SA Rugby, negotiations for the South African teams to permanently join PRO14 “remain on-going and an update will be provided at the appropriate time”.

The current PRO14 season concludes with the final on March 27.

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McGeechan calls for Itoje to replace Jones as Lions skipper

Sir Ian McGeechan says England lock Maro Itoje should captain the British & Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa in 2021 instead of Alun Wyn Jones who is ‘no longer a potential starter’.

McGeechan, who played for the Lions and coached them on three tours, believes Jones should be made the midweek captain, with Itoje leading the team in the three Test series against the Boks. Rugby fans can book British lions 2021 tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.

‘Itoje is the likely skipper of this Lions party,’ McGeechan wrote in his Daily Telegraph column.

‘He was outstandingly influential in [the drawn series with the All Blacks in] 2017, growing with every game and really asserting himself in the biggest games. His game involvement is very high, and his discipline is now excellent.

McGeechan calls for Itoje to replace Jones as Lions skipper

‘When you go to South Africa you have to match their forwards for physicality, and it’s no coincidence that every Lions side to tour South Africa in the past 50 years was captained by second rows – Willie-John McBride in 1974, Bill Beaumont in 1980, Martin Johnson in 1997 and Paul O’Connell in 2009.’

McGeechan said Itoje’s ability and that of ‘so many other potential Lions locks’ to play in the back row should encourage Lions coach Warren Gatland to take six second rows.

‘James Ryan will go, and I really rate the versatile Iain Henderson so would definitely take him, as I would Courtney Lawes, who was brilliant in New Zealand. I’m also a Joe Launchbury fan, while Jonny Gray, Johnny Hill, Scott Cummings, George Kruis and Quinn Roux are also in contention.’

He added that Jones, world rugby’s most capped Test player, should lead the midweek team but not the Test team because he is ‘no longer a potential starter’ in the Test team.

‘He is a born winner and Lions legend, and on such a short tour Warren will desperately need players who can lead by example, especially in training as well as on the field.’

McGeechan calls for Itoje to replace Jones as Lions skipper
McGeechan calls for Itoje to replace Jones as Lions skipper

McGeechan then listed Itoje as one of six players who could have ‘a momentous 2021’ with the Lions.

The others were Scotland flanker Jamie Ritchie, Ireland loose forward Caelan Doris, Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell, England centre Ollie Lawrence and Wales’ teenage wing Louis Rees-Zammit, who McGeechan believes ‘has the pace to excel on the hard, fast grounds in South Africa’.

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South Africa’s countdown to B&I Lions tour boosted by Rainbow Cup

Guinness PRO14 to conclude in March ahead of Rainbow Cup; South Africa’s Superteams – Bulls, Lions, Sharks, and Stormers will all be involved in Rainbow Cup; major boost for South Africa ahead of British & Irish Lions tour next year. Rugby fans can book British lions 2021 tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.

South Africa’s preparations for the British & Irish Lions tour next year have been given a significant boost after it was confirmed their four major franchises will compete in the Rainbow Cup against PRO14 clubs.

South Africa's countdown to B&I Lions tour boosted by Rainbow Cup
South Africa’s countdown to B&I Lions tour boosted by Rainbow Cup

The competition will get underway on April 17 next year and see the Bulls, Lions, Sharks, and Stormers, who all previously competed in Super Rugby, face teams from Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Italy that will all tour South Africa at some stage in the campaign.

“The timing of the Rainbow Cup is perfect,” director of rugby Rugby Rassie Erasmus said in a media release from South African Rugby on Wednesday.

“It will finally get our Super (Rugby) teams back into international competition after a year’s absence and comes at the ideal time as preparation for the tour by the British & Irish Lions.

“It will be a step-up from the domestic competition and remind our players of the different type of rugby they can expect when the Lions are here.

“Our players will be facing many of the players that will be in Warren Gatland’s squad and it will be very interesting to see how our players adapt to the challenge.”

The Lions are set to tour South Africa for eight matches, the final three of which are tests against the world champion Springboks, from July 3-Aug 7.

South Africa's countdown to B&I Lions tour boosted by Rainbow Cup
South Africa’s countdown to B&I Lions tour boosted by Rainbow Cup

The 16 teams in the Rainbow Cup will be divided into two pools of eight, made up of two Irish, two South African, two Welsh, one Italian, and one Scottish club.

Each team will play one game against each pool opponent and the sides that finish top of their pools will face off in a final on June 19.

According to SA Rugby, negotiations for the South African teams to permanently join PRO14 “remain on-going and an update will be provided at the appropriate time”.

The current PRO14 season concludes with the final on March 27.

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Nkosi knocking on the door for the Lions series

It is becoming increasingly difficult to visualize a Springbok team without Sbu Nkosi in it, writes ANDRE-PIERRE CRONJE.

Nkosi plays rugby with silent ferocity. Other players wear their emotions across their faces but Nkosi looks perpetually stern a picture of intense determination unsmiling, uncompromising and unbelievably talented. Rugby fans can book British lions 2021 tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.

In what was, by the Sharks’ standards, a lacklustre affair on Saturday at Emirates Airline Park, Nkosi was the one bright spark. He put in an impressive display both on attack and defense, continuing the rich vein of form that has surely established him as the pre-eminent wing in South Africa.

Nkosi knocking on the door for the Lions series
Nkosi knocking on the door for the Lions series

For the second week in a row he made a superb defensive read to rush up on the opposition outside center and kill an attacking play. Last week it was Stedman Gans he folded like a deck chair; this week it was the turn of Wandisile Simelane. When Nkosi hits you, you stay hit.

Equally impressive were his aerial skills. At times the match descended into a kicking battle but Nkosi acquitted himself admirably in this department, as he has all year. For the second time this season he demonstrated immense skill by taking a ball directly from the kick-off, jumping at full pace, and making a clean break.

With a deft step Nkosi beat the Lions defenders tracking across and was all but under the posts had it not been for a timely (and brave) tackle by fullback Tiaan Swanepoel. And I say brave because meeting Nkosi head-on when he’s moving at that speed is a physical challenge and then some.

When in space Nkosi has the acceleration and footwork to be devastating. When not in space he has the physicality and aggression to make some. It’s a scintillating combination.

Nkosi has had to bide his time. After initially being preferred in 2018, Rassie Erasmus favoured the combination of Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe on the wings for the World Cup. Injury curtailed his Vodacom Super Rugby campaign. Lockdown has provided its own delays. Through it all he’s been patient, but now he looks hungry.

Nkosi knocking on the door for the Lions series

HIGHLIGHTS: Lions vs Sharks

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber will need to think carefully about how he balances his back three heading into the British & Irish Lions series next year. With Kolbe probably the best player in the world at the moment, including Nkosi in the side would likely necessitate Mapimpi making way (or Willie Le Roux with Kolbe moving to fullback).

But with Le Roux so integral to the Bok’s attacking shape, and with understudy Warrick Gelant injured, it is more likely that Nkosi is competing directly with Mapimpi for a spot on the wing.

Nkosi, the man with fire in his eyes and a furrow on his brow, has been knocking on the door for some time. Next year he may kick it down.

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DHL announced as logistics partner for Lions series

DHL Express, an international leader in the logistics industry, has been named as one of the official global partners for the 2021 British & Irish Lions series.

The agreement partners DHL with both the British & Irish Lions and the Springboks as the teams’ official logistics partner for the forthcoming tour, providing logistical expertise and support during the Lions series which consists of eight matches across six cities.

DHL announced as logistics partner for Lions series
DHL announced as logistics partner for Lions series

Through this new partnership, DHL will play an integral role in backing the teams both on and off the pitch, providing delivery services between venues while their logo will appear on the backs of the Lions, Springboks and invitational teams’ jerseys.

‘DHL is a brand that is synonymous with delivering excellence, so today marks the partnership of two teams who strive to be the best,’ said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.

‘DHL has consistently been a supporter of rugby here in South Africa, so we are delighted to have their expertise behind us as we bid to defend our turf against the Lions.’

DHL will also be supporting both teams’ supporters and delivering them closer to their team through exclusive merchandise and match tickets. The deal will also have DHL delivering the ball on to the field for the start of every tour match through its ‘Match Ball Delivery’ mascots, alongside premium pitch, stadia and kit branding rights.

DHL announced as logistics partner for Lions series
DHL announced as logistics partner for Lions series

John Pearson, DHL Express CEO, said: ‘Rugby represents many important values such as teamwork, passion, speed and respect, all of which are core qualities which resonate very strongly with our DHL brand values.

‘I am delighted to be continuing our partnership with the British & Irish Lions tour next year and thrilled to be adding the Springboks as a partner, further building on our global ties with rugby.

‘By partnering with both, we further highlight our commitment to rugby and to keeping the world connected. We look forward to engaging with the teams and fans of both the Lions and Springboks before and throughout the tour.’

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Sam Warburton selects only 2 Englishmen in his British and Irish Lions XV

Former British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton raised a few eyebrows today when he revealed a selection from the Lions XV that included just two English players. Rugby enthusiasts can book British lions 2021 tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.

Despite winning both the Guinness Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup, Warburton did not see fit to reward them in this team selection, instead choosing an Irish team to face the Springboks in South Africa in 2021.

Sam Warburton selects only 2 Englishmen in his British and Irish Lions XV
Sam Warburton selects only 2 Englishmen in his British and Irish Lions XV

Warburton, who headlined the 2017 tour of New Zealand, revealed his selection on Twitter, writing: “What a game England. Look at my Lion XV. What you think?”

In fairness to Warburton, although he did not specify it in his Tweet, his selection was made in the context of his current form of the weekend’s Fall Nations Cup final, where England did not shoot, barely leaving the line against a third party. French costume choice.

XV LIONS OF SAM WARBURTON

1. Cyan Healy

2. Luke Cowan-Dickie

3. Andrew Porter

4. Maro Itoje

5. James Ryan

6. Justin Tipuric

7. Peter O’Mahoney

8. Taulupe Faletau

9. Conor Murray

10. Jonny Sexton

11. Keith Earls

12. Bundee Aki

13. Robbie Henshaw

14. Duhan van der Merwe

15. Jacob Stockdale

The Welshman’s last rugby match was the Lions’ test draw against the All Blacks in June 2017. After the series in New Zealand, he underwent neck surgery due to an ongoing injury followed by surgery for a proactive knee in early 2018. Tried to get back in top shape. But he was unable to reach the heights he desired and so he made the heartbreaking decision to retire at just 29 years old.

Sam Warburton selects only 2 Englishmen in his British and Irish Lions XV
Sam Warburton selects only 2 Englishmen in his British and Irish Lions XV

England head coach Eddie Jones has specified that he wants 20 English players to make the tour, an effort he believes will keep the players going ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. There will be a big chance of that if Gatland chooses a team like Warburton’s.

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