Revealed: Who Boks will face before B&I Lions tour
UPDATE: The World Cup-winning Springboks will signal their return from international rugby exile with two historic matches ahead of their three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions.
The Springboks have planned Tests against the USA and Italy, however, due to the Covid-19 quarantine requirements, the fixtures have been cancelled.
Instead, the World Rugby Champions will host Georgia in a two-test series on July 3 and 10, SA Rugby will confirm the exact dates, venues and kick-off times in due course.
The series marks the first time Georgia will tour South Africa, while the two Tests are also the first time the two countries will meet again since their only previous clash, at the 2003 World Cup in Australia.
Rassie Erasmus, Director of Rugby, welcomed the World Rugby July Test schedule and said the two-Test series against Georgia offered the Springboks a very good opportunity to prepare for the much-anticipated Lions Series.
“Nothing beats a full-blooded international to test your skill set, readiness and ability under pressure, and we are delighted to have this opportunity before the Lions series,” said Erasmus.
“Jacques [Nienaber], his coaching staff and management have been working around the clock to get the team as well prepared as possible, and the Georgia series is a much-needed opportunity after such a long and unforeseen interruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Last year, Nienaber was named as Springbok head coach, but the worldwide pandemic has prevented the World Cup champions from playing any Test matches since November 2. 2019, when they defeated England in the final in Japan.
“The confirmation of the Georgian Tests, and the announcement of the British & Irish Lions squad last week have caused a lot of excitement and I am sure it will lift the spirit of the players – we can now accelerate our preparations for our return to Test rugby,” said Nienaber.
Meanwhile USA, Argentina, Japan and Canada will now travel to the UK and Ireland and New Zealand will host tests against Fiji in World Rugby’s revised programme.
The Samoa versus Tonga World Cup 2023 qualifier will also be hosted over two legs in New Zealand, creating a Pacific hub in the country across the July window. World Cup 2023 qualifiers will also continue in Europe and get underway in Africa and South America.
World Rugby confirmed the strong revised programme on Monday after all unions and World Rugby agreed to a revised schedule within the existing window.
World Rugby has facilitated discussions to confirm an alternative schedule for teams consisting of a minimum of two matches for unions who sought replacement fixtures.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “This has taken a monumental effort from all concerned. While there is light at the end of the tunnel in respect to COVID-19 in many nations, the challenges continue to be present, dynamic and impactful and therefore I would like to thank the unions, their respective governments, broadcast and commercial partners and players for their flexibility and full commitment to the process.
“Fans around the world can now look forward to an exciting bumper schedule of men’s test matches involving at least 25 teams, which will be a welcome sight for everyone. The road to Rugby World Cup 2023 also continues with key qualifiers for Samoa and Tonga and, of course, we are anticipating a fascinating British and Irish Lions series.”
World Rugby Vice-Chairman Bernard Laporte added: “Fans from all over the world will rejoice with this window of international rugby. I am delighted that match ups between northern and southern hemisphere teams can finally take place, this will act as a prelude to the exciting Rugby World Cup that we are all looking forward to in 2023.”
World Rugby and unions will continue to monitor the dynamic COVID-19 situation closely and respond if necessary, while any revisions to the November international programme will be confirmed in due course. World Rugby will also maintain its high performance support for emerging nations ahead of the July tests.
World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “Confirmation of the programme of July tests is the culmination of a considerable amount of detailed consultation and planning across the respective unions. It is also a reflection of the strong collaboration across the game that characterises our drive to strengthen engagement with all stakeholders to deliver a more aligned, meaningful and effective men’s international calendar beyond Rugby World Cup 2023.”
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