Leigh Halfpenny told he won’t be going on the Lions 2017 tour of New Zealand if Toulon reach the Top 14 play-offs
The fullback made his long-awaited return last weekend, kicking Toulon to victory against Montpellier to reach the Top 14 the final
The 2017 tourists face the All Blacks in three Tests, the Maori, the Barbarians and all five of the country’s Super Rugby franchises
Leigh Halfpenny won’t be going on next year’s Lions tour of New Zealand if Toulon reach the play-offs of next season’s French Top 14.
The 2013 Lions hero and Welsh superstar returned from the serious knee injury he suffered last September to kick money-bags Toulon into the final of this season’s championship.
However, the plan in 2017 for the Lionsis for all the squad to fly out after the Guinness Pro12 and Aviva Premiership finals but any player based in France would miss that flight if their club is still embroiled in the Top 14 play-offs next season.
“If players can’t get on the plane, they won’t be considered for selection,” warned Lions chief executive John Feehan.
“There’s no restriction on overseas players but we don’t want guys who are going to turn up halfway through the tour. That’s not going to happen.”
Feehan also revealed whoeever takes charge, they will have the freedom to pick who he wants in his Test team for the clashes, irrespective of their nationality.
“The Lions has always been the best of the best. There are no quota system – that is not our ethos,” he said.
“There were 13 Welsh players in the last Test win in Australia, and Wales provided the most players in 1971 and 1974, but that is just a fact of life.
“We are either going to pick the best players, or we are not. If we don’t, then I don’t think we’ve got any chance of winning.
“We pick the best of the best, whoever they may be or wherever they come from. If Eddie Jones gets his way and they have 15 English players in the side then fine … but only if they deserve to be there.”
Feehan expects about 38 players to be in the Lions squad but emphasised: “Ultimately it’s down to the coach.
“Keeping the numbers down worked really well in 2009 and 2013. The thinking would be about 38, maybe one or two either side.
“If you get over 40 then players spend six weeks scratching their backs. We want an all for one and one for all squad.
“We want every player to have a shot of making the Test side, with no preconceived ideas but, in reality, no player is going to play more than four matches.”