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Rugby’s big power play as cricket scrambles for options

Pressure is mounting on Australia’s cricket tour of South Africa following news the British and Irish Lions could be on the verge of cancelling their rugby odyssey to the country.Cricket Australia is working behind the scenes to determine whether their scheduled three-Test series in South Africa starting next month will be safe enough to go…

Pressure is mounting on Australia’s cricket tour of South Africa following news the British and Irish Lions could be on the verge of cancelling their rugby odyssey to the country.

Cricket Australia is working behind the scenes to determine whether their scheduled three-Test series in South Africa starting next month will be safe enough to go ahead.

Organisers are pushing to condense the series as tightly as possible, with Australia considering a hit-and-run mission with no warm-up matches that would ensure the entire trip – including the two weeks’ quarantine back in Australia – could be completed inside six weeks.

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There is a feeling out of South Africa that the best plan might be to play two Tests at Centurion in Pretoria and the other at The Wanderers in nearby Johannesburg, with the players to stay at a secluded ranch with an 18-hole golf course and private lake for fishing.

That is the same accommodation currently being used by the South African and Sri Lankan teams.

If the Sri Lankan Test tour goes off without a hitch, it could be a boost to Australia’s chances of agreeing to tour, although officials need to be convinced of the bio-security measures in place given England cancelled their recent tour midway through and escaped the country.

The British and Irish Lions rugby outfit haven’t toured South Africa in 12 years, but they are considering either postponing the July series to 2022 or holding the matches in the UK instead.

Cricket Australia aren’t expecting nor are seeking any early access to the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s rolled out in Australia in early March – after the South African tour.

Australia’s Olympics team have received no official word on whether they would get priority, but are likely to have the vaccine made available to them in time for the Tokyo Olympics, although it would not be compulsory for athletes.

The AOC has appointed its own bio-security company to navigate the path ahead to Tokyo.

Australia’s cricketers have numerous overseas trips scheduled for 2021, including a possible Test championship final in COVID-ravaged England in June, a T20 tour of the West Indies and the T20 World Cup in India in October.

Without the vaccine, it would be an extraordinary commitment for Australia’s stars to be expected to put themselves up for every tour knowing there was two weeks quarantine required every time.

Cricket Australia will consult players and staff on the South African tour and coach Justin Langer has stated selectors would be understanding and supportive of players who feel they need a break following several months of back-to-back bio-security bubbles.

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