The dust may just have settled on the 2019 Rugby World Cup but attention is already turning to the British & Irish Lions tour of 2021.
The schedule for the quadrennial series was announced this morning and will see the best players from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales pit their wits against world champions South Africa over the course of three tests in July and August.
For the third successive tour, the Lions head coach will be Warren Gatland and the New Zealander will lead his troops into battle against the Springboks on Saturday, July 24 (Johannesburg), Saturday, July 31 (Cape Town) and Saturday, August 7 (Johannesburg). In the build-up to the three main events, the Lions will come up against Super Rugby sides DHL Stormers, Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls, as well as a South Africa Invitational XV and the South Africa 'A' side.
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) December 4, 2019
The British & Irish Lions have been touring since 1888 and since 1989 have rotated every three tours between going to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. On each tour, they generally play three tests against the host nation's senior side.
The 2017 tour of New Zealand featured 11 Irish players and finished as a drawn series, with the Lions and New Zealand winning game each. The final match in Auckland finished in a 15-15 draw with England's Owen Farrell kicking an equalising penalty in the 77th minute.
South Africa will provide a stern test during the 2021 Lions tour, having won the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan last month. On their way to be crowned champions, they defeated Gatland's Wales side in the semi-final before dismantling England in a one-sided final in Yokohama.