Jason Leonard has warned Britain and Ireland’s top players that the upcoming Lions tour will be like none other in rugby history.
Leonard, known affectionately as ‘Fun Bus’, was as famous for enjoying himself off the pitch as for his achievements on it as England’s most-capped player.
But ahead of a tour to South Africa fraught with uncertainty due to the pandemic, he admitted the whole tour party would need to stick rigidly to the Covid protocols for it to be completed.
The Lions chairman said: “The only thing that’s 100 per cent is that we’re not going to have a traditional Lions tour in whatever shape or form.
“We won’t get the tour we want, South Africa won’t get the tour they want, the players most probably won’t get the tour they want and the fans won’t get the fan experience they want.
“Part of the player experience is getting out and seeing the country, going to the townships and doing some coaching. It’s not just what you see on a Saturday afternoon. It’s a shame it looks like that will be curtailed.
“In my experience as a player, you’d play say the Stormers in Cape Town on a Saturday afternoon, then go out afterwards for a few beers down the Waterfront. That won’t be happening. Or popping out to a braai.
“We’ll have to comply with whatever medical and scientific advice is given us as we’ve got to remember it’s just a game of rugby and we’ve got people dying. You’ve got to respect that.”
Leonard said he is hopeful that if everyone follows the rules there will be no repeat of England’s one-day cricket tour to South Africa which was abandoned after several positive tests left players feeling uncomfortable about continuing.
“It’s not a gamble per se cos you’ve seen other tours going off at this moment of time in the world,” he added.
“We’ve got these bio environments where if everyone follows the rules you’re hoping you’ll be able to get a tour away.”
Mirror Sport revealed exclusively this week that South African rugby bosses hope to persuade their government that fans should be able to travel.
Leonard said: “We are hoping matches could take place in front of some spectators, but how many remains to be seen.
“The alternative is no Lions tour and a Lions tour with no fans is better than no tour at all for a diehard Lion like me.”
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