By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent
The British and Irish Lions are hoping that some of the players forced to self-isolate will be able to rejoin the squad today as the future of their tour to South Africa hangs in the balance.
Warren Gatland has revealed that one of the two coronavirus cases confirmed by yesterday’s round of PCR testing is a “very weak positive” and that another test could produce a negative.
If that is the case, then a number of the nine players and four members of staff currently self-isolating at the team hotel in Johannesburg will be given the all-clear to rejoin the touring party.
And our first mid-week match of the 2021 Tour comes to a close.
We hope you enjoyed that one as much as we did - thanks for all of your support from wherever you are in the world, it means everything to all of the players and staff 💪#LionsRugby #CastleLionsSeries #LionsSA2021 pic.twitter.com/KOi7g6ANSw
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) July 7, 2021
Alternative opponents for Saturday’s match at Loftus Versfeld after the Bulls were forced to withdraw because of an outbreak of coronavirus have yet to be found, but it is not yet known if the Lions have the playing resources to fulfil a fixture anyway.
Wales wing Josh Adams has started three successive matches while the enforced eight changes to the 23 made for Wednesday’s 54-7 victory over the Sharks have torn up selection plans for the fourth fixture of the tour.
“My understanding is that one of the positives is a very weak positive and if he is retested and it’s negative then his close contacts should be okay,” Gatland said.
“Then I’ll need a report back from the medical team about how the players are after the Sharks game.
“Someone like Josh Adams has fronted up three games in a row, so he’s a player we probably need to rest.
“I have to take my hat off to these players, they’ve really dug deep for the whole squad. It just shows to me what it means to play for the Lions.”
A chaotic day ended with the Sharks being routed, but it was only confirmed one hour and 45 minutes that the match could go ahead.
The Lions spent eight hours of Wednesday in their rooms until those able to leave and play were scrambled by bus to Emirates Airline Park where even the disjointed build-up could not prevent them from amassing eight tries in another easy win.
“We ended up getting tested twice. We were waiting for results, guys not sure if the game was going ahead, if they were positive, close contacts – so many different variables,” captain Iain Henderson said.
“You’re sitting on the edge of your bed waiting to go. We were told to prepare as if the game was going ahead and I think as easy as that is to say, it’s not easy to do.
“So the bus was due to leave at 6.10pm but at 6pm the guys still weren’t 100 per cent sure. They were in their red polos and shorts sitting in their rooms waiting to get the all-clear so they could go and play.
“It’s obviously mightily frustrating for the close contacts – the guys who managed to get released from their hotel rooms are probably the lucky ones.
“The ones left at the hotel, I’m sure they’re devastated. I’m sure they were excited about playing or even being involved in the next game, which is up in the air.
“It’s the nature of the beast. We’ve been dealing with it for the last 18 months or whatever. Games have been called off for club and country and by this stage players are getting used to the topsy-turvy nature.”