Contingency planning is well under way and Sportsmail understands that tour chiefs are pushing to reach a decision by the end of the week. An eight-game schedule is the favoured option, with the possibility of four Tests against the Springboks in Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh and Twickenham.
Fixtures against Japan and South Africa A were part of the original tour itinerary but fixtures against South African franchises are likely to be scrapped due to Covid difficulties.
A home Lions tour is on the way with four Tests against the Springboks set to take place
Alternatively, the USA could provide warm-up opposition in two separate fixtures against the Lions and the Springboks. Playing matches against America would open up a lucrative commercial market, and the Barbarians can select UK-based players without the difficulties of international travel.
Another possibility is to play in South Africa behind closed doors, or a switch to Australia could be made. But with the prospect of crowds returning by summer, a home tour is now the most likely scenario.
With the prospect of crowds returning by summer, a home tour is now the most likely scenario
Sportsmail understands the tour would break even with stadiums at around 25 per cent capacity. Requests have been made for the Government to underwrite the tour and officials are optimistic they will get the support they need.
Meanwhile, Premiership Rugby look ready to allow their Scottish players to play in the re-arranged Six Nations match against France, likely to be on Friday March 26 — the week after the rest of the competition finishes.
The date is out of the player-release window, but although no formal decision has been made it is understood the league are prepared to make an exemption.
The upcoming Tests of the home event would feature in Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh and London
The match was postponed last weekend due to Covid cases in the French camp.
The Autumn’s women’s World Cup in New Zealand is set to be put back to 2022 due to Covid. World Rugby’s proposal is likely to be approved by the RWC Board and World Rugby Executive Committee next week.