The Lions will face an unforgiving tour itinerary due to the position taken by Premiership Rugby.
Writing in The Rugby Paper, Nick Cain, has claimed that the Lions 2017 tour to New Zealand has been ‘sabotaged from within’ by Premiership Rugby (PRL). Cain has made the claim after the PRL revealed that they would only release players 48 hours after the Premiership Final, leaving the Lions with virtually no preparation time.
Cain wrote that the Lions requested that the tour begin one week later so as to allow players prepare and become accustomed to each other. This would mean that the first fixture of the tour would be played on June 10th rather than 3rd, and the final test match moved from July 8th to 15th.
The PRL though opposed the change, citing player welfare interests. A Premiership Rugby spokesman told The Rugby Paper, ‘We felt it was a player welfare issue, and that the end of the tour would be too close to the start of the new season’.
As a result, the Lions will face all four New Zealand Super Rugby Franchises, the New Zealand Maori and three tests against the All Blacks in a five week period between June 3 and July 8 2017.
Therefore Cain argues that Premiership Rugby’s ‘decision is unbelievably myopic in its self-interest. It is not as if the Premiership is ignorant of the Lions landscape, or the landmark benefits of a successful Lions tour to Rugby Union throughout the Home Nations’.
The 2013 Lions coach, Warren Gatland, told Cain, ‘Whoever agreed to that schedule from the Lions point of view, it’s crazy… I don’t see how you could even win that. You’re playing five Super Rugby sides, the New Zealand Maori, and three Tests – and another game – all in a five-week period’.