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Six Nations summer switch rejected, Lions tour ‘assessed’ for UK and Ireland

Six Nations Rugby has rejected suggestions this year’s tournament could be moved to the summer in an effort to have fans in attendance, while the British & Irish Lions’ tour to South Africa reportedly could be staged in the UK and Ireland amid ongoing COVID-19 concerns.

The 2021 Six Nations is due to run from February 6 to March 20, with the first weekend’s fixtures set to see Italy take on France at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, England face Scotland at Twickenham in London and Wales meet up with Ireland at Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

At present, the majority of the tournament is likely to be played behind closed doors due to the resurgent COVID-19 threat and the uncertainty surrounding the Lions’ summer tour to South Africa had led to suggestions that the Six Nations could be postponed by four months, a move that could allow fan attendance.

However, a Six Nations Rugby spokesperson told the Press Association news agency: “The Six Nations is planning for the tournament to go ahead as scheduled, but we are monitoring the situation with the unions and their respective governments and health authorities.”

For the Six Nations to be switched to the summer, the Lions tour would need to be cancelled in its entirety as it is currently scheduled to run from July 3 to August 7. South Africa is also attempting to deal with a variant of COVID-19 that is believed to be more transmissible than the UK strain, and more resistant to vaccines.

The South African Rugby governing body and the Lions board are both understood to be of the belief that a tour without travelling fans would be commercially unviable. On Saturday, British & Irish Lions managing director Ben Calveley said the Lions board has had repeated meetings to discuss all scenarios available and is in constant dialogue.

Calveley added that the board will meet throughout January and into February, if required, to review all relevant information and data. After further consultation with SA Rugby, he stated that an update on the outcome of these meetings will be provided in “due course”.

The BBC has now reported that the series could be held in the UK and Ireland if COVID-19 prevents fans from travelling. Games played in Edinburgh, London, Cardiff and Dublin, are said to be one of the contingency plans being discussed by the Lions board.

Sky Sports added that playing the Tests behind closed doors in South Africa is another option, along with postponing the series by a year. In October, the Lions announced that BT Murrayfield will host a match against Japan, in what will be only the third time the rugby union team has played a ‘home’ fixture.

The game in Edinburgh will take place on June 26 and is intended to serve as a warm-up fixture for the Lions tour. The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup represents the first-ever clash between the world’s greatest touring side and Japan.