Sources with knowledge of the situation have told the Herald the inbound series is also a significant part of why Rugby Australia offered to host the British and Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa in July and August this year.
With South Africa ruled out as a venue due to COVID-19, Lions and SARU bosses are weighing up whether to play the series behind closed doors – or with limited crowds – in the UK, or to take up Australia’s offer of a series played in front of full stadiums.
There is a push among some media and ex-players, however, for the series to be postponed until July 2022, where it could likely be played in South Africa. But if changes are made and the Lions tour played next year, England’s stars would be in South Africa and they would bring what is essentially a ‘B’ team to Australia.
That, in turn, would significantly devalue England’s tour of Australia, which could impact ticket sales and the potential audience for a three-Test series.
Rugby Australia, therefore, is highly motivated for the Lions series to be played in 2021. While he has a different reason, Jones is in firm agreement.
England are believed to be the nation most in favour of taking the Lions tour to Australia and that’s partly due to Jones not wanting to lose his best players for an important tour that falls just 12 months out from the 2023 World Cup.
With France arriving in Australia in four months for a blockbuster series, England locked in for 2022, the World Cup in France in 2023, a Lions tour in 2025 and what RA hopes will be a home World Cup in 2027, recently departed chief executive Rob Clarke believes the game is in a strong position.
“The opportunity is there to work on a plan to happen and maximise and leverage a successful Lions tour in 2025 which is one of the largest single events that happens in the sporting calendar globally,” Clarke said.
“Then, fingers crossed, we win the bid for the 2027 World Cup. Two years after the Lions are here, we host the third largest sporting event in the sporting calendar, that’s the World Cup.
“The two tentpole events, and if you add in three Tests against England next year when they come and tour and a World Cup in France in 2023, there is an enormous amount to look forward to and that’s a lot of commercial leverage opportunities to set up a legacy for decades to come.
“I really am optimistic about the future. I think with partners like Stan and Nine, who are bringing such a fresh look and an energy and expertise to the game, there is no reason rugby cannot build itself back into that pinnacle position that it used to own and enjoy a couple of decades ago.”
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Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald
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