Tuesday, September 21

Lions rule out Australia and can still play vacant South African venues | British and Irish lions


The fate of this summer’s British & Irish Lions tour remains up in the air and the final decision has been postponed until next week. However, Lions officials have ruled out any possibility of moving the tour to Australia, and moving it to the UK and Ireland will only happen if the government agrees to underwrite any potential losses in the event of another Covid-19 surge.

Until now, holding the closed-door tour in South Africa in July and August had been considered a last resort, but the organizers may not have a choice yet. Keeping matches in empty stadiums would be a passion killer on many fronts, but it would allow the three-test series to unfold as originally scheduled.

Postponing the tour until 2022 would be much more financially attractive if crowds could attend, but there can be no absolute guarantee that Covid-19 will be completely gone by then. Local unions also have their own tours scheduled as part of their preparation for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

France could have star center Virimi Vakatawa available for the Six Nations game against England at Twickenham next week. The Racing 92 midfielder has not appeared in this season’s tournament to date, but has recovered faster than expected from a knee injury.

Racing will take on Toulon this weekend and if Vakatawa can prove his fitness after six weeks out, he could compete again for the England game. Romain Ntamack, a fly-half, is also on his way back after breaking his jaw in December and will start at 10 for Toulouse against Brive. Scrum half Antoine Dupont also tested negative for Covid, suggesting that he should also be available to face England.

Given the recent Covid-19 troubles within the French team, management will be delighted to have some potential reinforcements for a party that has now been formally approved by the French government. Following a meeting between the president of the French Rugby Federation, Bernard Laporte, the Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, and the Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, it has been confirmed that the participation of Les Bleus is not in doubt.

The Fallen Farmers
Virimi Vakatawa will return for Racing against Toulon after recovering from a knee injury. Photograph: Franck Fife / AFP / Getty Images

Maracineanu had threatened to withdraw France due to the outbreak in which 12 players and four backroom employees, including head coach Fabien Galthié, tested positive for Covid-19 and caused the postponement of Scotland’s match last weekend. . Now it seems that this meeting will be reorganized for Friday, March 26.

England head coach Eddie Jones will also keep an eye on Sam Underhill’s return to Bath against Exeter for the first time since the wing was forced out of the Six Nations competition with a hip problem. Underhill is missing, but he’s back in a bathing pack that also features Beno Obano, pitched by England to gain more playing time, and Wales’ Taulupe Faletau. Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray from Scotland start for Exeter, with Tomas Francis from Wales on the bench.

England, however, have chosen not to return Paolo Odogwu and Ollie Lawrence to the Wasps and Worcester, respectively.

The Rugby Football Union has published its latest return to the rugby roadmap for community clubs, with games for adults and age groups under adapted rules allowed as of April 26.


www.theguardian.com

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