Lions tour to go ahead in usual summer window
The British and Irish Lions have confirmed their eight-game tour of South Africa will go ahead as planned next summer despite the ongoing negotiations over the global calendar.
The Lions have been given the all-clear by clubs and unions to stage their eight-game tour in the usual July-August window. There had been suggestions that the tour might be moved back to September to accommodate a new global seawill son that would have started in January and to avoid a clash with the rearranged Tokyo Olympics.
However, the Lions have pressed ahead with an unchanged itinerary from the schedule published in December to allow an estimated 30,000 supporters to book travel.
Warren Gatland’s team start their tour against the Stormers in Cape Town on July 3 as one of five warmup games leading into the three Tests against the world champion Springboks on July 24, July 31 and Aug 7 in Soweto, Cape Town and Ellis Park, Johannesburg.
“An enormous amount of planning goes into putting on a Lions series, so it was crucial that a decision was agreed upon in good time,” Ben Calveley, the managing director of the British and Irish Lions, said. “I am pleased that we are able to provide some clarity for all those supporters eager to travel.”
Confirmation of the Lions schedule means that England’s leading players face 52 weeks of back-toback rugby with the Premiership season resuming on Aug 14. That leads into an extended November international window before the 2020-21 season begins in December. The Premiership final is scheduled for June 26, a day before the Lions are due to fly to South Africa.
Last month, Gatland pleaded for the Premiership to move the final date to provide extra preparation time. So far, Premiership Rugby has refused to budge. In that respect, Saracens’ relegation from the Premiership could prove to be a blessing in disguise with Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Jamie George, Elliot Daly and the Vunipola brothers given an opportunity to rest and recuperate.