British and Irish Lions: South Africa examine possible tour switch

South Africa beat England 32 to 12 in the final to lift the 2019 Rugby World Cup

South Africa rugby is starting to examine the possibility that the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour may be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The eight-game tour is scheduled to take place between July 3 and August 7.

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The South African union says there are no planned changes, but it needs to "explore various scenarios".

The 2020-21 international calendar could be revised to save the game's finances.

Any changes can help to cover the financial losses caused by uncertainty during most of the 2020 international program, although public health regulations and travel restrictions may also play a role in decisions.

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UK countries and Ireland could potentially earn more money from home testing in mid-2021, despite the prestige of a Lions tour to face current world champions.

But a delay on the Lions tour until 2022 could leave players facing a particularly tiring schedule, a year before the next Rugby World Cup in France.

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"While we continue to look forward to an incredible series of tests and tours against British and Irish Lions in 2021, and there are no changes planned, it would be our neglect not to explore various scenarios for a possible date change caused by the Covid -19 pandemic," he said. South Africa Rugby in a statement confirmed to BBC Sport, after media speculation about the tour.

Warren Gatland oversaw a winning tour of Australia in 2013 and a series tied against the All Blacks in 2017

Former Wales coach Warren Gatland is expected to take a year out of his Super Rugby job, the Chiefs, to undertake a Lions tour for the third time.

The southern hemisphere organization Sanzaar, which covers South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, has also tried to quash reports that the competition of 14 Super Rugby teams could be downgraded by introducing a New Zealand / Australia competition.

"All of these reports are purely speculative and have no basis for them," said Sanzaar chief executive and Andy Marinos, formerly of Wales.

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"This does not mean that we are not having realistic discussions about what could happen if the Covid-19 restrictions continue beyond 2020".

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