A decision on whether the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa and other test matches in July will go ahead will be made by the end of next month, according to World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte.
In addition to the Lions’ eight-match tour of the Republic, the Wallabies are set to host France in a three-test series while the All Blacks are scheduled to face Italy and Fiji throughout July.
However, the feasibility of those matches have been clouded in doubt due to COVID-19. That has left Laporte and World Rugby until the end of March to decide whether the mid-year test window can go ahead as planned.
“We decided at World Rugby to firstly take a decision if the tours will take place, or not, at the end of March,” Laporte, who is also the French Rugby Federation’s president, told RMC Sport.
“Because we need time to turn things around but I sincerely think France will go to Australia, Italy will go to New Zealand seeing they are the two trips posing questions. The Lions, too, of course,” he added.
Rugby Australia have offered to host the Lions tour as a potential alternative to staging the event in South Africa, where there have been more than 1.4 million recorded cases and over 45,000 deaths.
Laporte said he was open to the tour being held outside of South Africa, touting Europe as a potential location for the event.
“They might play in Europe and it would be a good thing,” he said.
One logistical concern regarding the prospect of Australia hosting either the French series or the Lions tour is the two-week quarantine period those who are allowed into the country have to endure.
Laporte questioned how that would work given the final of France’s Top 14 is scheduled for June 25, just eight days before the first test between the Wallabies and Les Bleus.
“If we’re told that we have to quarantine for 14 days in a room, it’s not possible,” the former France head coach said.
“Because, we arrive the day after the Top 14 final to [prepare to] play the first game,” he added.
'I don’t think anyone has to tell him, he knows that he’s let himself and his team-mates down'. https://t.co/aeSD28yfxv
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Should the July test series be cancelled all together, Laporte said a repeat of last year’s makeshift Autumn Nations Cup could be arranged to help ease financial concerns and help build momentum ahead of the 2023 World Cup in France.
“If they tell us ‘you can’t go to the Southern Hemisphere and they can’t come here’… We can talk and say ‘why not play friendlies again between us’?
“Friendlies would be there to make money and because a coach need games two years out from a Rugby World Cup.”
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