Wednesday 28 September 2016

English Premiership chief hits out at scheduling of Lions tour

Published 28/08/2016 | 11:34

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 06: Brian O'Driscoll (R) and Paul O'Connell of the Lions raise Tom Richards Cup after their victory during the International Test match between the Australian Wallabies and British & Irish Lions at ANZ Stadium on July 6, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 06: Brian O'Driscoll (R) and Paul O'Connell of the Lions raise Tom Richards Cup after their victory during the International Test match between the Australian Wallabies and British & Irish Lions at ANZ Stadium on July 6, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has criticised the scheduling of next year's 10-match British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, saying it is "not sustainable" for players.

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The touring team are due to depart before the Premiership and PRO12 finals, with the first match taking place on the same weekend as the Top 14 final in France - a clash which could rule out Toulon's Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny.

But McCafferty's main concern is the length of the tour so soon after the gruelling domestic season.

"It is going to be very difficult next year," he said in the Observer. "It is a punishing schedule and I do not know why it was signed up to. Ten games over that period is a lot and there will be difficulty for players coming off that tour going into the 2017/18 Premiership.

"The Lions is in the mix as we move towards the season structure post-2019. It is a fabulous brand and an important part of the economics for the southern hemisphere. It should carry on but it is not sustainable that players can go through a club and international season, be involved in that scale of tour and then be in shape for the following season.

"People involved in the Lions need to listen. Do you need to play that number of midweek games when the economics are driven off the back of three Tests in the main? Nothing can be done about next year but then the agreement will be up and things need to be worked out."

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