Lions tour to go ahead in usual sum­mer win­dow

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Daniel Schofield

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.

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