Australia Bid To Host 2017 Lions Tour Opener
The Australian Rugby Union said Thursday it is attempting to lure the British and Irish Lions back down under for a money-spinning kick-off to their 2017 tour of New Zealand.
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said the bold bid for a one-off Lions blockbuster would go some way to recouping lost revenue from next year’s World Cup season.
The Lions provided a massive cash injection to the domestic game last year when they played nine matches around the country to full grounds, including a 2-1 Test series victory over the Wallabies.
The tourists kicked off their 2013 tour against the Barbarians in Hong Kong and Pulver said he is keen for a similar tour opener in Australia.
“That’s one of the conversations we’ve been having with them (Lions officials),” Pulver told the Australian Associated Press.
“If they want preliminary games outside New Zealand then we would be a wonderful location for them.
“We would take it in a heartbeat.”
The Lions were whitewashed 3-0 by the All Blacks on their last tour to New Zealand in 2005 and the four unions are looking closely at ensuring their best preparations for the next tour.
Pulver admitted a Wallabies-Lions showdown was unlikely during the Super Rugby season but other options were being considered.
The cash-strapped ARU face extra financial strain next year with likely just two home Test matches scheduled — down from seven — due to the international season revolving around the World Cup, to be held in England in September and October.
The Wallabies may host the All Blacks in Sydney and South Africa or Argentina, in a Rugby Championship encounter, in Brisbane.
There will be no June Test window next year and Super Rugby will run unbroken from mid-February through to a July 4 final, instead of a late season three-week break implemented this year, the ARU said.