British and Irish Lions: South Africa examine possible tour switch – BBC South East Wales

South Africa beat England 32-12 in the final to lift the 2019 Rugby World Cup

South Africa Rugby is starting to examine the possibility of the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour being delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The eight-match tour is scheduled to run between 3 July and 7 August.

The South African union says there are no planned changes but it has to “explore various scenarios”.

The 2020-21 international calendar could be reviewed to salvage the game’s finances.

Any changes could help cover the financial losses caused by the uncertainty over most of the 2020 international programme, though public health regulations and travel restrictions could also play a part in decisions.

The UK nations and Ireland could potentially make more money from home Tests in mid-2021, despite the prestige of a Lions tour to face the reigning world champions.

But a delay of the Lions tour until 2022 could leave players facing a particularly gruelling schedule, the year before the next Rugby World Cup in France.

“While we continue to look forward to an incredible Test series and tour against the British and Irish Lions in 2021, 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 South Africa Rugby in a statement confirmed to BBC Sport, following media speculation about the tour.

Warren Gatland has overseen a winning tour of Australia in 2013 and a drawn series against the All Blacks in 2017

Former Wales coach Warren Gatland is due to take a year out from his job with Super Rugby side the Chiefs, to run a Lions tour for the third time.

The southern hemisphere body Sanzaar, covering South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, has also tried to quash reports that the 14-team Super Rugby competition could be downgraded by the introduction of a New Zealand/ Australia competition.

“All such reports are merely speculative and have no basis to them,” said Sanzaar chief executive and former Wales centre Andy Marinos.

“This is not to say that we are not having realistic discussions on what may have to eventuate, should Covid-19 restrictions continue beyond 2020.”

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