British & Irish Lions To Reduce Fixtures For '21 South Africa Tour
The British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in '21 will be cut to eight matches in a move that "will be welcomed" by Premiership Rugby clubs, but "future trips could be restored to 10 fixtures with the four home unions keeping their options open," according to Paul Rees of the London GUARDIAN. Talks with New Zealand, Australia and South Africa about an agreement to cover the three tours in the next 12 years are "approaching a conclusion." The Lions have "come under pressure from the Premiership, which secured the backing of the Rugby Football Union, to cut the duration of tours and reduce the load on leading players." One of the reasons why the Lions have agreed to cut the number of fixtures is the belief that South Africa, unlike New Zealand this year, "would struggle to field seven teams of sufficient strength" outside the Tests. The country has suffered an "exodus of players to Europe and Japan this decade" and this year cut two teams, the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings, from its Super Rugby roster. The '25 tour to Australia is also "likely to be eight fixtures based on the current strength of the game there, but nothing is set in stone because of the fluid nature" of int'l rugby. If New Zealand rugby remains strong, it "would be worth playing 10 matches there" in '29. One administrator said, "Each tour will be looked at on its merits" (GUARDIAN, 9/24).