Tuesday, August 3

Lions Arrive in South Africa, But Rising Covid Rates Threaten Tour Plans | British and Irish lions


The British and Irish Lions have arrived safely in South Africa, but uncertainty still hangs over their tour itinerary, and rising Covid-19 infection rates in Gauteng province raises growing concern. The possibility of hosting most of the tour’s games, and potentially all three Trials, in Cape Town is under discussion, although South African officials remain keen to stick to the existing schedule.

Every precaution is being taken to ensure the tour can continue safely, with the Lions’ carry-on luggage carefully sprayed with disinfectant at the Johannesburg airport, but the Lions are still not absolutely sure whether they will stay in Gauteng for his first three matches of the tour. next month.

Saturday’s game against the Provincial Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg is set to go ahead as planned, albeit against a backdrop of increased hospital admissions and tougher government restrictions, including a 9 p.m. curfew, a ban. of the sale of alcohol and that restaurants can only serve take-out food. If the situation deteriorates further, the wisdom of trying to organize a rugby tour during an intense third wave of Covid will become a growing topic of debate.

There has been at least moderately upbeat news, with the Springboks cleared to return to training after one of the three players who had previously tested positive for the virus, scrum half Herschel Jantjies, subsequently returned a negative test.

This was deemed sufficient to allow the remaining team members to resume their preparations for Friday’s warm-up test against Georgia, albeit without Vincent Koch and Sbu Nkosi, who also tested positive on Sunday. On the other hand, this week’s Currie Cup game between the Cheetahs and the Bulls, who the Lions must face next month, has been canceled following a positive test returned by a front row Cheetahs player.

Harlequins' Marcus Smith after victory in the Premiership final
Harlequins’ Marcus Smith (center) has been called up for England’s call-up to face the United States, following Saturday’s victory in the Premiership final. Photograph: Andrew Fosker / Seconds Left / Shutterstock

While Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach, has said the touring team has received assurances that the series will move forward, the continued disruption caused in so many sports by the coronavirus makes it impossible to predict anything with absolute confidence. The almost certain absence of crowds will also have a significant financial effect at a time when SA Rugby is already short of money.

The situation in Europe is not exactly improving either, as Scotland’s team and management have chosen to isolate themselves until next week after three positive Covid tests were recorded at their camp. Sunday’s international match between England A and Scotland A in Leicester was called off after nine Scottish players went into isolation on Saturday and all players and staff will now isolate themselves regardless of whether they were considered close contact or not.

England have summoned the Unlimited Harlequins trio of Alex Dombrandt, Jack Kenningham and Marcus Smith to their squad preparing for Sunday’s Test against the United States at Twickenham. Quins center Joe Marchant, also fresh off Saturday’s Premiership final success, has also been selected, but only one Exeter player, Henry Slade, has been included.

Wasps hooker Gabriel Oghre also appears, but Northampton winger Ollie Sleightholme does not run after suffering a concussion in training, making him the fifth player from England’s squad to be out of the game. workouts this month. Joe Heyes, Lewis Ludlow, Harry Randall, Jacob Umaga and Dan Kelly, each of whom could theoretically still be captured by other nations after the cancellation of Sunday’s A international, are all included.

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Meanwhile, it has been confirmed in New Zealand that Tabai Matson will take over as the Harlequins’ new head coach next season. Matson, who has traveled extensively, has previously been on the coaching staff for Bath and the Crusaders, among others.


www.theguardian.com

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