The British & Irish Lions squad heading to South Africa next month had their first coronavirus vaccine doses during a pre-tour gathering in London on Wednesday.
Along with Great Britain’s Olympic team members, those involved in the Lions tour have had special dispensation from the government to be vaccinated ahead of schedule, with second Covid jabs set to be administered next month during the squad’s planned training camp in Jersey.
Warren Gatland and the majority of his staff have already received their jabs and the head coach suggested this month that, while not wanting to be seen to have special treatment, it would be a “show of unity” if a team picked to represent the four home unions were to be vaccinated together. The players are understood to have received the Pfizer jab at a local vaccination centre.
Only Scotland fly-half Finn Russell missed out on the traditionally hectic kit allocation day at the Lensbury Club as he is based at Racing 92 in Paris and has already been vaccinated. As well as being fitted for suits, playing gear, gumshields and even branded underwear, the players had head-shots and promotional ‘walk-up’ footage taken and attended a squad meeting to preview the forthcoming tour. The youngest squad member, the 20-year-old Welsh wing Louis Rees-Zammit, was also introduced to the toy Lion mascot which he will have to look after throughout the trip.
Despite increasing infection rates in South Africa the tour remains on, with matches to take place behind closed doors. After playing a warm-up Test against Japan at Murrayfield on 26 June, the Lions’ opening game in South Africa will be against their provincial namesakes in Johannesburg on 3 July.
Before this weekend’s Allianz Premier XVs final, Bath have become the latest club to announce their intention to launch a professional women’s team, with the aim of joining the top league in three years’ time. They also hope to double the number of registered female club players across their local region.
Bristol Bears, meanwhile, have announced the signing of centre Antoine Frisch from Rouen in France’s Pro D2. The 24-year-old was born in France but is English qualified via his mother. He played under the former Bristol head coach Richard Hill at Rouen and also spent a year at Loughborough University in 2015.