Australia boss ‘surprised’ by Lions tour decision

Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos has admitted that the decision to progress with the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa surprised him.

It was confirmed on Tuesday that the eight-match tour is set to go ahead in South Africa as originally planned, after the contingency to relocate the tour to the UK was dismissed by the Lions board.

However, SA Rugby did announce that the tour schedule is subject to review due to the pandemic and its predicted progression and that venues are to be confirmed.

The decision was also taken after the Lions board and SA Rugby both ruled out a relocation to Australia.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, Marinos, who has also served as Sanzaar CEO, said he did not quite expect a final decision to be made at this point.

‘This announcement this morning that they’re going to host the Lions tour took me by surprise a little bit,’ Marinos said.

‘I don’t know what the structure around that is looking like.’

If the original schedule is followed, the Lions will open their tour against the Stormers in Cape Town on 3 July, and while the series may have to take place behind closed doors, there is hope that some capacity for fans could be accommodated.

Of course, this will all depend on the status of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa at the time. It is likely that games will be played behind closed doors.

RA promised capacity crowds in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane, adding that profits from the Test series would be split between the Springboks and Lions. However, there were concerns over the costs of relocating the tour there as well as loss of revenue should a short-term lockdown be implemented in any of the cities.

Australia are, however, looking to push forward by hosting the Rugby Championship, after they hosted what became the Tri Nations last year following South Africa’s late withdrawal.

Marinos admitted that it would be difficult to avoid another bio-bubble championship, but said that Sanzaar needs to kickstart their planning to ensure a model is put in place for the tournament by the time it rolls around in the second half of the year.

‘We need to have those sort of robust conversations with South Africa, what does it mean?

‘There’s more of a concern with our guys having to go over and potentially quarantine there than coming back and quarantining over here, which I know the South Africans are going to have to do if they come here.

‘I think we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that we’re probably going to be in a bubble in some way, shape or form.

‘So, we’re going to go through a process of determining where that needs to be. My request to Sanzaar is let’s get ahead of the game and build a proper model.’

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