British And Irish Lions Rugby Tour Encountering Scheduling, Political, Financial Problems
There is a genuine sense that "unless action is taken, a combination of financial and political expediency and an increasingly congested domestic and international playing calendar will inexorably undermine" the future of British and Irish Lions rugby tours, the "last great bastion of traditional touring," according to Mark Souster of the LONDON TIMES. It is a process that began in '09 in South Africa, when "early matches lacked quality and crowds, and is continuing here." After the tour four years ago, categorical assurances were given that the paucity of games would not be tolerated. Last year, the Lions "thought they had received verbal guarantees from the Australian Rugby Union that provincial teams would be as strong as possible. That has not happened." Australia head coach Robbie Deans kiboshed that when he "insisted on withdrawing his Wallabies players and cocooning them in a month-long camp to keep them from the line of fire." To "add insult to injury," Western Force will field a second-string team because they have to play the Waratahs in a meaningless Super 15 fixture on Sunday. Neither side can make the play-offs, "yet more than 20 players are being denied the honour of facing the Lions on the basis that two games in four days for the same squad is unsustainable." The result is that "the value of a Lions tour is being devalued." Dilute it further and there comes a time when "the 'what’s the point?' argument wins the day" (LONDON TIMES, 6/5).