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The British & Irish Lions Tour to South Africa 2021……October News Bites

October 30th, 2020Rugby
Hard to believe that we’re just nine months away from one of the great contests in world rugby. The British & Irish Lions versus the world champion Springboks on home turf. Yes indeed, three pulsating Tests plus five warm-up matches against the best of South Africa’s provincial clubs running from July 3rd to August 7th 2021. Being locked in a struggle with a seemingly endless coronavirus pandemic has seen this sporting year almost disappear in a puff of smoke. Making this edition of The British & Irish Lions Tour one of the most sought after global rugby events, so don’t forget to book your Lions tickets and tour packages  without delay. Anyway, the sports news reporter never sleeps. Japan to play pre-tour Test match against The British & Irish Lions in Scotland

The British and Irish Lions will play Japan for the first time in a one-off Test match at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland on Saturday June 26th 2021 as a warm-up for the Lions' tour of South Africa.

Both are fluent running rugby sides set to play for the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup in a fixture that will whet the appetite of rugby fans everywhere for the Lions' tour to South Africa, culminating in three Tests against the World Cup winning Springboks. Undoubtedly, a match that will also serve to replenish the depleted coffers of world rugby given the increasing likelihood of a working coronavirus vaccine appearing in the New Year.

Ben Calveley, managing director of the British and Irish Lions spoke to media describing the rationale behind the latest insertion in next year’s Lions’ calendar.

"One of our objectives is to give Warren [Gatland] and the playing squad as much meaningful preparation as possible before departing on Tour, so we are delighted to have agreed this fixture,"

"A Lions Test is one of the most iconic events in world sport, but a huge number of fans from the Home Nations never get the chance to see one live. The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup match will give even more supporters the opportunity to be part of the next chapter in Lions history.

"It will be an 'I was there' moment, against an entertaining and highly-respected opposition," Calveley concluded.

Meanwhile, Lions head coach, Warren Gatland, has the greatest respect for the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-finalists believing they will test his squad to the limit before they head down to South Africa.

"We saw Japan play some excellent rugby during the World Cup and they will come to Edinburgh fully-motivated to win," Gatland told media.

"They are a talented side who play high-tempo rugby, so it'll be a good challenge for us ahead of the Tour, and a chance for the match day squad to put their hands up for Test selection."

This enthralling eight-game tour to South Africa kicks off with the Lions taking on the Stormers in Cape Town, Saturday, July the 3rd 2021. Johannesburg will play host to the first Test three weeks later, with the second Test taking place on Saturday the 31st of July at the Cape Town Stadium.

Head Coach Gatland permitted to engage with home union head coaches.

The British & Irish Lions Tour to South Africa 2021 boss, Warren Gatland has been given the go-ahead to enter talks with head coaches from the four British Isles’ home unions with a view to their participation in the tour coaching squad.

Gatland has already held discussions with the chief executives, and will announce appointments in the next few months.

Certainly both Andy Farrell head coach of Ireland and Scotland’s boss Gregor Townsend are two strong candidates to join next summer’s tour.

Gatland talked to press about the process:

"The international coaches are a little bit easier [as opposed to club coaches] in terms of being available,"

"The CEOs have generally been incredibly supportive and pretty positive about giving us the best chance of being successful.

"We've had those conversations and it's now about talking to potential coaches and trying to put a coaching team and backroom team together."

Gatland was the last head coach of one of the three UK home nations and Ireland teams to be part of a Lions tour back in 2009, when as Wales' boss he became a member of Sir Ian McGeechan's backroom staff.

Based on his own experience Warren Gatland believes that coaches such as Townsend and Farrell can be part of the Lions set up next summer despite their additional national side responsibilities.

Farrell has in fact worked with Gatland twice before, as the Lions defence coach in Australia in 2013 and again in New Zealand 2017, but then took over the lead role with Ireland when Joe Schmidt stepped down as head coach after the 2019 World Cup.  His first game in charge resulted in a 19 – 12 win against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on the 1st of February in the 2020 Six Nations Championship.

Gregor Townsend, who was heroic as a player on the Lions 1997 tour of South Africa, is yet to tour as a coach. Nevertheless he was approached by Gatland to take a supporting role down in New Zealand in 2017.

Gatland also believes that coaching The British & Irish Lions gives head coaches of national team invaluable experience. Especially in this case against the Springboks, heading toward the Rugby World Cup in France in 2023, he went on to add some incisive observations.

"Having spoken to some people who have been there in the past, they just say how invaluable the learning perspective in terms of going on a Lions tour, what you learn and bring back, probably outweighs so much about going on [a standard international] tour."

"Sometimes a country going on [a regular summer] tour, they are going to smaller nations, and it's a chance to develop some of the other coaches from a leadership perspective as well.

"It is incredibly tough; it is the hardest thing you will ever do as a coach or as part of the medical or strength and conditioning team, because it is just relentless, every day preparing two teams.

"There is no respite, but what you bring back from that, what you learn from the players and from the other coaches, playing against the world champions, there is so much of an upside that can be so beneficial for those international coaches two years out from a World Cup."

Warren Gatland has certainly been there, seen it, done it and got the T-shirt as far as international rugby coaching goes, with twelve years in the hot seat with Wales and now a third tour as leader of the British and Irish Lions. The next generation stepping up still have much to learn from the grand master.