The positive Covid test is the latest blow to the Lions tour

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The British & Irish Lions’ match against the Cell C Sharks on Wednesday has been thrown into doubt after a member of the tourists’ management team tested positive for Covid-19, forcing two players into isolation as close contacts.

The entire squad will now undergo an additional round of PCR tests and providing the results come back negative the match will go ahead with a later kick-off time of 7pm BST – an hour later than planned after the game had already been brought forward to 6pm to avoid a clash with England’s Euro 2020 semi-final.

The Lions have already lost Saturday’s warm-up match against the Vodacom Bulls, who suffered their own Covid-19 break while Friday’s match between South Africa and Georgia has also been lost after both teams returned numerous positive cases.

As well as the two Lions players, two other members of management are isolating having been deemed close contacts of the staff member who returned a positive lateral flow test. A decision on whether the match will go ahead will be made later this afternoon. 

“We have followed all necessary precautions since the start of the Tour, which included regular testing and rigorous Covid-19 counter measure planning and protocols,” Ben Calveley, the managing director for the British & Irish Lions, said. 

“Our priority is to ensure the health and safety of the entire touring party, which is why we quickly isolated the players and staff upon receiving the news of the positive result. Everyone has subsequently been lateral flow and PCR tested. The Medical Advisory Group await the results of the PCR testing in order to make a decision on tonight’s game. 

“The five individuals affected will be monitored closely during isolation and receive the best possible medical attention as we await the results of their PCR tests. Further updates will follow in due course.”

BREAKING

The British & Irish Lions can confirm that a member of its management team has tested positive for COVID-19.

Full statement below.#LionsRugby #CastleLionsSeries #LionsSA2021

— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) July 7, 2021

Losing a second warm-up match would seriously imperil the integrity and viability of the tour continuing. Ten players are due to make their first starts of the tour tonight at Ellis Park including Sam Simmonds, Tom Curry and Anthony Watson. 

While the Lions are trying to find an alternative opponent to play on Saturday, head coach Warren Gatland’s preparations are in disarray. Their next fixture would be against South Africa A on July 14, although that too must be doubtful considering the 12 positive Covid tests within the Springbok camp. The final warm-up match is against the Stormers on July 17 before the Test series is supposed to begin the following week.

While it is yet to be officially confirmed, it is likely that the entire Test series will be staged in Cape Town where rates of Covid-19 are much lower than in Johannesburg. “The priority is to maintain the integrity of the Test series and we will continue to focus on that,” Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, said.