British and Irish Lions open to moving 2021 South Africa tour to autumn

The last Lions tour, to New Zealand, ended in a drawn series for the first time

The British and Irish Lions are open to moving the 2021 tour of South Africa to the autumn to fit in with the new global calendar which is set to emerge after the coronavirus pandemic.

The tour to face the world champions is scheduled for 3 July to 7 August.

However, leading administrators are looking to refresh the international calendar in the aftermath of Covid-19.

Moving the July Test window to September or October is firmly under discussion.

While the Lions still expect the tour to proceed as planned, it’s understood officials have discussed the possibility of shifting to later in the year, not only in case of health restrictions which might still in place because of the pandemic, but also to align with any proposed new international schedule.

This would also avoid an overlap with the re-arranged Tokyo Olympic Games.

On Sunday, re-elected World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont reiterated the “appetite” for shifting the international windows so that they ran back-to-back in the autumn, and said that talks were ongoing, although sources at the governing body insist plans remain at an embryonic stage.

But Beaumont’s comments came after RFU boss Bill Sweeney stated in April he was confident that a “different structure and different shape” would be formed following the pandemic.

“We are looking at things now in terms of all bets are off, and a blank sheet of paper,” Sweeney told the BBC.

“While we continue to look forward to an incredible Tour against the world champions in the summer of next year, and there are no planned changes, it would be remiss of us not to explore various scenarios for a possible date change caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said a Lions spokesperson.

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