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British and Irish Lions to play Japan in Scotland next June

·2-min read

LONDON (AP) — The British and Irish Lions will play a rugby test against Japan in Edinburgh next June before embarking on an eight-game tour to South Africa.

It will be just the third test on home soil for the Lions, and the first against Japan.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland said the World Cup quarterfinalists would offer a stern test before his squad takes on World Cup champion South Africa in a three-test series.

“We saw Japan play some excellent rugby during the World Cup and they will come to Edinburgh fully-motivated to win,” Gatland said. “They are a talented side who play high-tempo rugby, so it’ll be a good challenge for us ahead of the tour, and a chance for the match day squad to put their hands up for test selection.”

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph said the June 26 match would a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players, and we can’t wait for it.”

The British and Irish Lions played in Cardiff against a World XV in 1986 and against Argentina in 2005.

The Lions squad, comprising players selected from the so-called Home Nations of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, generally tours every four years to the southern hemisphere. The first of 13 tours to South Africa was in 1891.

The Lions will start their 2021 tour with a match against The Stormers in Cape Town on July 3. The three-test series will kick off in Johannesburg on July 24.

South Africa last week announced it was withdrawing from the 2020 Rugby Championship set to start in Australia because of players welfare concerns following the long break for the COVID-19 pandemic. The Springboks haven't played an international match since beating England in the Rugby World Cup final in Japan last November.

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