Rugby pundit Stuart Barnes has dropped a cryptic Tweet concerning this year’s endangered British and Irish Lions of South Africa and where it might be staged.
Series organisers are yet to confirm their intentions, with a tour in South Africa this year looking to be completely non-viable. A home series in the UK and Ireland is one possible option, while Australia have made an offer to host the series and underwrite the cost of travel for both the Lions and the Springboks.
A left-field offer from the United Arab Emirates has also apparently been tabled.
However, an exchange today between former England flanker Peter Winterbottom and Barnes was intriguing. Winterbottom tweeted: “Does anyone agree with me that the Lions Tour should be postponed until 2022. Is this not the most sensible option or am I missing something. 40,000 Lions supporters, full stadiums, massive TV coverage, happy sponsors.”
Barnes quoted his post, writing: “You might enjoy this weekend’s Sunday Times, Peter.”
— Stuart Barnes (@SBarnesRugby) February 26, 2021
In January, Barnes’ colleague at The Sunday Times, Stephen Jones, revealed that the Australians had officially offered to host the tour, provided they could cover their costs. The Australians had already suggested the idea on social media, but the confirmation of the offer saw the Lions release a statement in which they confirmed that they were considering it.
A broad reading of Barnes Tweet might suggest that the Lions are now looking at postponing the tour for a year, an option that is highly favoured in South Africa, certainly among Springbok fans. At the very least it suggests that the Sunday Times’ are running a piece this weekend on the tour, which has generated headlines since a genuine threat of the tour not going ahead was revealed at the start of the year.
If the tour was postponed, it would go against the wishes of all four Home Nations captains, with Ireland’s Jonny Sexton, England’s Owen Farrell, Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones and Scotland’s Stuart Hogg all stating they want the tour to go ahead this year as a must.
And they’re not the only ones.
Speaking to RugbyPass yesterday, Springbok lock Lood de Jager said if the tour must go ahead in the UK, than so be it.
“There is a lot of speculation about playing the Lions here in the UK or even in Australia and I am just waiting to find out because playing against the Lions is something I have dreamt about since I was a little boy,” de Jager told Chris Jones. “I remember the Lions tour in 2009 when I was still in school and it was so important to everyone in South Africa. That is why they don’t want to do the tour without fans because that is what makes it so special.
'To miss this tour then players will never get a chance again and that is why it’s important. It doesn’t matter where that is'
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 26, 2021
“I watched all the games on TV in 2009 with my Dad and because the tours only happen every 12 years you are so lucky to play in a test series against them. It is rarer than a World Cup and you could be a guy who plays in two Cups and never get the chance to take on the Lions so it is really special. If I can be part of Lions series then that is something amazing and I would cherish that forever.
“To miss this tour then players will never get a chance again and that is why it’s important. It doesn’t matter where that is, although it would be amazing to have it home with our families there and the boost it would give to the people and the economy. That is why it would be sad if it couldn’t go ahead in South Africa and that would be the biggest disappointment. But you can only control what you can control and if it has to go ahead in the UK then it is still 15 green against 15 red and it will still be very special.
Earlier this month Keith Wood told RugbyPass that he believes it might be the best to delay the tour, even if it meant a full four-year cycle.
“The Australian option seems fraught with complication, quarantine and potential player welfare issues. It also has a different time zone and the commercial contracts will be impacted. There is nothing easy in any of this.
“We could end up with something in Britain and Ireland and people will say it’s not the Lions, but it may be the most viable option this year. In truth, I believe the Lions needs supporters at the games and if this is not possible it may require delaying the cycle for four years.”
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