British & Irish Lions

'Disgraceful' if British & Irish Lions don't play in SA, says legendary skipper

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Willie John McBride (Getty Images)
Willie John McBride (Getty Images)
  • British & Irish Lions legend Willie John McBride has implored relevant stakeholders not to host this year's series against the Springboks in the UK.
  • Concerns over Covid-19 has led to such a contingency plan, but the former lock said such a move would 'defeat the entire ethos' of the Lions brand.
  • Like the fan-spearheaded petition launched this week, McBride wants the tour to be postponed till 2022 and played in South Africa.

Do it right or don't do it at all.

That, essentially, is the message from legendary British & Irish Lions skipper Willie John McBride over reports that this year's much-anticipated series against the Springboks could be hosted in the UK.

With both regions grappling with a second wave of Covid-19 infections, a contingency plan that would see the three-Test series being played in Dublin, Cardiff and London has been mooted, ostensibly because crowds could be allowed back in those stadiums sooner than in South Africa.

SA Rugby has previously stated that a series behind closed doors would not be financially viable.

But the 80-year-old former lock, who famously captained the 1974 Lions vintage that cruised to a 3-0 series victory, said such a move would be a death knell to the brand.

"It would defeat the entire ethos of the Lions if they play a few games here in the home countries," McBride told The Telegraph.

"It would be a disgrace. It will defeat everything the Lions stand for."

McBride clearly agreed with a substantial contingent of fans, who earlier this week launched a petition for the tour to postponed to 2022 in order for them to travel to South Africa.

"It's not a Lions tour, or a Lions concept of any sorts, to play anything here in the home countries. You have to play it in South Africa. In my view they should postpone it until next year," he said.

"Let’s not lose the concept of what the Lions is all about. If they have to postpone it for three years, it would not matter to me, as long as they retain the concept of what the Lions are all about.  It would damage the Lions forever."

The damage of a makeshift series would also be massive on the South African economy, with some estimates stating that the country could bank on an over R3 billion windfall from the tour.

Government last year also gazetted that the tour would be handed "protected status", potentially maximising its commercial value.

- Compiled by Sport24 Staff  

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