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A crowd of up to 16,500 will be permitted to watch the British and Irish Lions’ warmup match against Japan at Murrayfield on June 26, it was announced Wednesday.

The curtain-raiser to the combined side’s tour of South Africa will see social distancing measures designed to combat the spread of the coronavirus in place at the Edinburgh headquarters of Scottish rugby, with the numbers allowed in well short of Murrayfield’s overall capacity of more than 67,000.

This match may well be the only occasion in which the 2021 Lions play in front of spectators given that South Africa Rugby is planning for all eight tour fixtures, including three tests against the world-champion Springboks, to take place behind closed doors.

South Africa is Africa’s worst virus-hit country, accounting for about a third of all cases in the region.

“It will be brilliant to see a passionate crowd back at Murrayfield for what promises to be a superb game of rugby before we embark on the tour to South Africa,” said Lions managing director Ben Calveley.

“I’m sure it will give the entire touring party an enormous boost to play this fixture in front of Lions fans.

“We are very grateful to the Scottish Government for its commitment and support to ensure this fixture would be seen by a live audience.”

Next month’s fixture against 2019 World Cup hosts and quarter-finalists Japan will be the first time fans have been allowed into Murrayfield since Scotland’s 28-17 victory over France in March last year.

Officials have still to decide if the Lions’ match against Japan counts as a full international, which would mean caps were awarded.

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