British and Irish Lions tours could become a “dead concept” if they are forced into “insane” plans to reduce the number of games and length of future tours.
World Rugby, who are looking to implement a global calendar, is reportedly making moves to reduce future tours from 10 to eight games and six to five weeks. A move which has already been backed by senior figures at Exeter Chiefs and Leicester Tigers.
“If they take a couple of matches away from us, all coaches think that is madness, bordering on insanity – voluntary insanity,” John Spencer, a Lions board member and manager of the tour in New Zealand, told The Daily Telegraph.
“If we are not careful with preparation I think the Lions could be a dead concept.
“The clubs would be killing it by demanding extra things every tour – shorter tours, fewer matches, less preparation. Meanwhile, with one fewer match before the first Test, the Lions would come under incredible pressure from the host nation.
“It is easy to say ‘don’t play the midweek matches’ but how do we prepare? Our tour has to have moral force. We need to engage with the community, be respectful and we need to go away with a level of integrity and unless we provide meaningful opposition you just cannot do it.”
“I fully understand that the Premiership wants more time at the end of the season and do not want overlaps with internationals but one has to contrast with that the huge undertaking and status of the Lions tour,” said Spencer.
Those in charge of the Lions were then warned yesterday by top clubs that there was no prospect of the concept continuing in its present form.
Ahead of the Lions’ first test against New Zealand last night, two senior figures from the Premiership then backed plans to shorten the tours.
The chairman of Premiership champions Exeter, Tony Rowe, said that if the Lions wanted to retain – or even extend – the six-week period in which they were granted access to players for this year’s tour, they should pay for the privilege.
The chief executive of Leicester, Simon Cohen, went even further, calling for the curtailing of future trips come what may amid a battle by tour chiefs to prevent them being cut from 10 to eight games and six to five weeks.