Lions Down Under: Support rapidly growing
THE LATEST: British and Irish Lions officials will meet on Thursday to discuss the proposal from Rugby Australia to host the series versus South Africa.
The Australian idea was met with a tepid response when it initially emerged last month, but support for bringing the tour to the home of the Wallabies has since reportedly grown.
With it increasingly likely that matches in South Africa would have to be played behind closed doors and amid the ongoing uncertainty that crowds could attend if the Lions tour was held in the UK and Ireland, the Australia alternative has now gained momentum.
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With an offer from the United Arab Emirates the only other hosting invitation that has been received, the Australian proposal is poised to be reviewed in detail and the potential for sell-out crowds attending matches will be viewed as hugely attractive for a tour where the Lions and the Springboks would operate out of hubs, most likely based in Sydney or Perth.
Speaking in an interview with The Telegraph, Hamish McLennan, the chairman of Rugby Australia, said: “If we sold out Sydney or Perth, which is achievable if we are allowed to have full crowds, it would just be mind-blowing for the players. I know lockdown in the UK has been tough but in Sydney life is relatively normal. We can successfully host this.
“The New South Wales government is committed to hosting and running sports of all types and are probably the best at doing it in the world. The players would really enjoy it and I’m confident we could also deliver a really decent cheque back to South Africa and the Lions. We will get it sorted if we are told by April.
“It is an evolving situation but if you look at what we did with New Zealand and Argentina last year, we created ‘bubbles’ where they were able to train and quarantine and we would do the same for the Lions and South Africa.
“There was no diminishment in their training capabilities. Take Argentina, they knocked off the All Blacks for the first time ever and everyone had a great time. We just need a commitment and then we can get it organised.”