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Lions chief defends individuals’ right to not jab despite Covid threat to tour

Lions chief Ben Calveley last night defended the right of individuals to tour South Africa without being vaccinated.

The future of the trip hangs in the balance after Covid found its way into the Lions’ supposedly bio-secure bubble.

Selection for Wednesday’s game was severely compromised and Warren Gatland’s team have yet to receive clearance to play at all this weekend.

Given what is at stake and the strict rules in place, there is shock that a number of the tour party are not double-jabbed.

Yet Calveley, the Lions’ managing director, said: “I think everyone has a right to make their own decision on whether or not they want to be vaccinated.

“We think we’ve got a very robust set of protocols in place that will keep us as safe as they possibly can.

“We’re getting tested three times a week if not more, we’re socially distancing, we’re well ventilated, we’re observing hand hygiene, we’re wearing masks, we’re not integrating with the public and we’re travelling very infrequently.

Warren Gatland: proud of how his players are adapting to an ever-changing situation

“I think it’s wrong for anyone to think that vaccination is some sort of universal panacea. I’m afraid it’s not.”

The Lions have fingers crossed that today’s test results will give a clean bill of health as Calveley has come up with a Plan B to replace tomorrow’s lost game against the virus-hit Bulls.

In a move unprecedented in more than a century, he has arranged for them to go AGAIN against the Sharks team they thrashed 54-7 on Wednesday.

Gatland with Lions' managing director Ben Calveley
Gatland with Lions’ managing director Ben Calveley

Calveley denied the match had been made purely to fulfil the terms of a TV contract and that there were sound rugby reasons for it.

“We came into this country to play rugby matches, right, not to sit in bio-secure bubbles,” he said.

“We want to play so that we can prepare the side to be ready to take on the Springboks in a Test series. That was very much the driver behind the decision.”

Duhan van der Merwe en route to a hat-trick of tries against Sharks on Wednesday
Duhan van der Merwe en route to a hat-trick of tries against Sharks on Wednesday

Asked if he feared the tour is doomed he said: “What I’d say is that it is a challenge. I’m definitely not going to sit here and say that this is easy.

“We’re living in a very strict biosecure environment governed by very strict protocols. No one comes and goes.

“The hotel staff live on site and we have independent virologists and infectious disease specialists advising us on what we can and can’t do.”

Different world: England fans pack Wembley for Wednesday's semi-final
Different world: England fans pack Wembley for Wednesday’s semi-final

The contrast is stark with the packed stadiums that England’s footballers are playing in.

The Lions and Springboks had their chance to switch the tour to the UK and Ireland but turned it down.

“We made a decision back in March that we would make the tour work here and we are determined to,” said Calveley. “There are absolutely no plans to deviate from that strategy.”


Alex Dombrandt, Harry Wells, Dan Kelly and Adam Radwan make their debuts for England in Saturday’s Twickenham Test against Canada.




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