Sunday Times rugby pundit Stephen Jones is reporting that Australia have offered to come to the help of the imperiled British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa, by offering to host the series.
With crowd attendance in South Africa looking highly unlikely, the Lions have given themselves until mid-February to come to a decision on how to proceed, with delaying the tour for a year and a home series in the UK and Ireland being championed as potential solutions.
Now, Rugby Australia appears to be offering a third option as a possible solution.
According to Jones, Australia have offered to host the series in Australia, with profits to be split between South Africa and the Lions. Rugby Australia would only take costs in lieu of hosting the series.
Jones tweeted: “Exclusive Times Sport: Lions Saviours. Australia offer to host Lions series between Springboks v Lions. Profits shared between two, Australia taking costs only. Provincial warm-ups either with SA or Aust SR teams. Existing slot, with fans! Easily best option!”
Exclusive @timessport. Lions Saviours. Australia offer to host Lions series between Springboks v Lions. Profits shared between two, Australia taking costs only. Provincial warm-ups either with SA or Aust SR teams. Existing slot, with fans! Easily best option!!
— Stephen Jones (@stephenjones9) January 30, 2021
According to Jones, provincial warm-ups could be staged against South Africa teams or local Australian Super Rugby sides. The key advantage, Jones argues, is that the Australians, who have relatively low coronavirus levels compared to the UK or South Africa, are likely to be able to host an attended series, something that is highly unlikely in South Africa and certainly very much in question in the UK and Ireland.
South African fans appear eager to delay the tour a year, while many Home Nations supporters appear keen on a ‘home series’ as the lesser of two evils.
All four captains of the home nations want the tour to go ahead this year. Welsh skipper Alun Wyn Jones was adamant that delaying the tour was not an option. “I think it needs to go ahead this year,” Jones said, speaking during Wednesday’s Guinness Six Nations virtual launch.
“The jury is out on where it will happen. We all know the jeopardy that it’s in. All being well, everyone will be safe and looked after if it does go ahead, for those guys selected.
“It would be a travesty if the fans weren’t able to go and see it.
“Having been involved in a few, it’s a very special tour and the fans make it that way.
“From a captain’s point of view, we (Jones, Farrell, Sexton and Hogg) are all in agreement that, if it can, it should go ahead this year.”