The British and Irish Lions are considering an offer by Australia to host the summer series against South Africa.
The Lions’ eight-match tour in July and August, including a three-Test series against the world champions, is in doubt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Rugby Australia has raised fresh hope that the series can go ahead by offering to act as hosts and the PA news agency understands that has been added to the options under consideration by Lions chiefs.
A decision is due mid to late February and initial options were playing the games behind closed doors, delaying the tour until 2022 or hosting games in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has confirmed reports on Saturday that they have offered to step in and host the series.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, McLennan said: “What we learnt from the Tri Nations last year and the tennis that’s happening now is that Australia can successfully stage global tournaments in a COVID world.
“It’s particularly tough in the UK and South Africa at the moment and I believe the more international rugby that gets played here, the better. We’re here to help.”
McLennan says profits from the tour would be split between the Lions and South Africa, with Rugby Australia merely covering their costs.
The move would also offer significant hope of matches being played in front of fans. Crowds have returned to live sport in the country and up to 30,000 fans will be allowed to watch next month’s Australian Open in Melbourne.
A series in Australia would prove popular among the expatriates from both the UK and South Africa but would prove a logistical challenge for the 30,000 fans that would normally be expected to follow the Lions.
Organisers would also have to comply with Australia’s strict quarantine regime, with players and officials facing the prospects of spending two weeks in hotels before the tour kicks off.
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones said earlier this week that the tour should go ahead “if it can”.
“I think it needs to go ahead this year,” Jones said, speaking during Wednesday’s Guinness Six Nations virtual launch.
“The jury is out on where it will happen.
“We all know the jeopardy that it’s in. All being well, everyone will be safe and looked after if it does go ahead, for those guys selected.
“It would be a travesty if the fans weren’t able to go and see it.”