British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa faces axe

Next year’s British and Irish Lions tour is in danger of being ditched as the home unions face up to rugby’s growing cash crisis. The Lions – the only global brand in the sport that can dwarf the All Blacks – are due to tour South Africa next year on an eight-match trip that could earn £30m. But England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are all sweating over whether or not they can play their autumn Tests, plus the four matches already held over from this season’s Six Nations due to the coronavirus shutdown. Some officials are already discussing how that would bankrupt the Welsh, Scottish and Irish unions and force them, as well as England, to make re-scheduled home Tests in 2021 their top priority. In a crowded calendar, it would mean the more lucrative home Tests elbowing aside the Lions tour, which would be postponed for a year, or even scrapped altogether. But we are talking about survival of the game itself.” Stimpson, who was the Lions’ top points scorer on the 1997 trip, said: “Of all the jerseys I wore on a rugby field, the Lions was the one that meant the most to me.