British and Irish Lions unconcerned series against South Africa will clash with rearranged Olympics as Tests are scheduled to avoid Tokyo showpiece
- The Lions will face South Africa in three Tests while the Olympics is going on
- The Games in Tokyo have been pushed back a year due to coronavirus crisis
- Lions’ matches will take place at 1am Japanese time in order to avoid a clash
- Australia are ready to host a back-up tour if coronavirus affects South Africa
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The Lions are confident that next year’s South Africa tour won’t be undermined by the rescheduling of the Olympics, as the three Tests against the Springboks will kick off in the evening, to avoid clashing with events in Tokyo.
Sportsmail understands that the international fixtures, in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Soweto on July 24, July 31 and August 7 respectively, will begin at 6pm local time – 1am in Japan.
That should limit any adverse impact of the Olympics being postponed a year, to a slot which directly cuts across the Lions’ series against the reigning world champions.
Sam Warburton (centre) and Maro Itoje during the Lions series in New Zealand back in 2017
Sources have indicated that the authorities in South Africa are unconcerned about the fact that this marquee rugby event in their country will take place at a time when the eyes of the sporting world will be on the Far East. They still anticipate British and Irish fans flocking in their thousands, along with strong broadcast viewing figures.
Within the home unions, there is a firm conviction that the tour will be popular and commercially successful, in spite of the Olympics taking over that precious window in the calendar.
Lions managing director Ben Calveley said: ‘We are determined to play our part in what will be an extraordinary summer of sport.
‘There should not be any direct clashes between Lions matches and Olympic events given the time difference between South Africa and Tokyo, so fans should not miss out on any action. We are expecting a fantastic series against the world champions.’
World champions South Africa will face the Lions in three Tests in July and August next year
Meanwhile, Sportsmail understands that Rugby Australia have notified the Lions hierarchy that they ‘stand ready’ to host a tour next summer, in the event of the coronavirus pandemic threatening South Africa’s ability to stage the eight-match event as planned.
At this stage, there have been many more cases Down Under than in South Africa, where officials are adamant that there is no prospect of any disruption, amid a military-enforced lockdown in the country.
However, the Australian union – rumoured to be struggling with debts of around £30million and fearing a bleak financial outlook – is thought to have indicated their willingness and ability to arrange a back-up 2021 tour at short notice if such an intervention is required.
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