Premiership Rugby Refuse To Play Ball With British & Irish Lions For 2021 Tour
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Shortening the English club season to allow the British and Irish Lions extra preparation time for their tour of South Africa in 2021 would be “suicidal” for Premiership Rugby, says its chief executive Mark McCafferty.
The Lions are set for another gruelling schedule in 2021, with the South Africa tour is set to feature eight games over just five weeks.
As things stand – it’s unclear how the next tour will fit into the rugby calendar. McCafferty meanwhile has accused the Lions of a lack of respect for the club game, and that they have shown “disdain.”
“No-one from the Lions has ever contacted me to say: ‘shall we start talking about the 2021 tour’,” he said.
“A bit like World Rugby sometimes, the Lions seem to have a disdain about talking to the club organisations.
“I think a lot could be improved if people actually sat down, demonstrated a basic respect for the club game and said: ‘How can we work together on this?'”
The 2017 schedule was hugely criticised and dogged by several issues, with the British & Irish touring side forced to play 10 games in six weeks, including an opening fixture against the Provincial Barbarians just days after arriving. Organisers have pleaded for longer preparation on future tours.
But McCafferty says no contact has been made, and making changes to the Premiership season during a Lions year is simply not an option.
“To go in and out of different formats is suicidal,” he said.
“For a product as strong as the Premiership to mess around, it would massively damage the brand.
“I think the issue is about the structure of the rest of the season and the structure of the Lions programme.”
McCafferty has instead suggested a condensed Six Nations in 2021, rather than the club game being compromised. The Lions have threatened to not select players from the Premiership for future tours unless an agreement could be reached.