British and Irish Lions management turn down Australia offer to host tour: reports

FILE PHOTO: Rugby World Cup - Final - England v South Africa - International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan - November 2, 2019 South Africa players celebrate after winning the World Cup Final while England players look dejected REUTERS/Matthew Childs

(Reuters) - The British and Irish Lions board has turned down Australia's offer to stage their tour of South Africa this year which is under threat because of the COVID-19 crisis, British media reported.

The Lions are scheduled to visit South Africa for eight matches between July 3 and Aug. 7, including three tests against the world champion Springboks. But the series remains under threat because of the impact of the pandemic.

A South African Rugby spokesperson confirmed to Reuters in January that they had received an offer from Australia, who have been relatively successful in containing the pandemic, to host the tour.

But the BBC reported that playing the series in Australia had been declared "unviable" by the Lions management following a meeting on Friday. A final decision on the matter will be made later this month.

Reports added the tour to South Africa could still go ahead as planned with limited numbers or no fans present in stadiums. Matches could also be played in the United Kingdom and Ireland, or the series could be postponed or cancelled altogether.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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