Lions tour and July Tests decision at the 'end of March', says World Rugby's Bernard Laporte
PARIS - World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte said on Thursday a decision on July's Test window, including the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, will be made by the end of next month.
France are scheduled to head to Australia and Italy to New Zealand but the coronavirus pandemic has put the fixtures in doubt.
"We decided at World Rugby to firstly take a decision if the tours will take place, or not, at the end of March," Laporte, who is also the French Rugby Federation's president, told radio station RMC Sport.
"Because we need time to turn things around but I sincerely think France will go to Australia, Italy will go to New Zealand seeing they are the two trips posing questions. The Lions, too, of course," he added.
Earlier this week, Rugby Australia offered to host the Lions tour as South Africa's Covid-19 cases ballooned to more than 1.4 million, with almost 45,000 deaths.
Laporte opened the door to holding the eight-match tour set to run from July 3 to August 7 in the northern hemisphere.
"They might play in Europe and it would be a good thing," he said.
Australia's borders are currently closed due to the virus outbreak but those able to arrive are subject to a two-week quarantine.
Former France coach Laporte said it would be an issue with the Top 14 final scheduled on June 25, eight days before the first Test against the Wallabies.
"But if we're told that we have to quarantine for 14 days in a room, it's not possible," he said.
"Because, we arrive the day after the Top 14 final to (prepare to) play the first game," he added.
If France's three-Test programme is cancelled, Laporte said a repeat of last year's Autumn Nations Cup could be organised.
"Like we did last season. If they tell us 'you can't go to the southern hemisphere and they can't come here... We can talk and say 'why not play friendlies again between us'?
"Friendlies would be there to make money and because a coach need games two years out from a Rugby World Cup," he added.