South Africa: Tight Schedule for 2021 British and Irish Lions in South Africa

analysis

The 2021 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, the fourteenth since 1891 and the third in the professional era, will have the fewest games ever as the increasingly crowded international schedule puts the squeeze on the last great rugby adventure.

Lions tours are the stuff of rugby folklore and in the pre-professional era they were three-month long epic journeys of rugby and adventure in a less frenetic time where over 20 matches were common.

In 2021 the tour will consist of only eight games, down from the 10 of the past three tours to South Africa (2009), Australia (2013) and New Zealand (2017).

The Lions of 2021 will only have time for five matches outside the three Tests because of club commitments of the British and Irish players.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland made all the right noises about this being a great schedule, but the reality is that Lions tours are under pressure for survival in a crowded calendar.

Clubs are loath to let their stars play international rugby, but they are compelled to under World Rugby's Regulation Nine, which demands that players are released for sanctioned Tests. But that doesn't mean clubs have to do more...

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