Aussies refute Woodward claim that they are treating Lions tour with "contempt"
The Aussies have hit back at claims that the British and Irish Lions were being treated with "contempt" because of the selection of a weakened side to face them in their first match, saying the country had more playing depth than in tours past.
Former England coach Clive Woodward, who led the 2005 Lions tour to New Zealand, said the Western Force resting a string of first team players for Wednesday's match at Subiaco Oval was "unacceptable and disgraceful".
Woodward said the Lions should consider whether to return to Australia if they continued to face weakened sides and Australian Rugby Union (ARU) spokesman Peter Jenkins said he was "entitled to his opinion".
"The Force side the Lions will face in the opening match does include Super Rugby and test experienced players which was certainly not the case in the corresponding match in 2001 when the Lions played Western Australia in Perth," he told reporters.
"It was also the case in 2001 that test players were stood down from a number of the provincial matches.
"Similarly, these sorts of claims do not take into account that the depth of Australian rugby has increased considerably in the past 12 years.
"In 2001, we had three Super Rugby teams and a pool of professional players that would not have topped 100.
"In 2013, we have five Super Rugby teams and approximately 175 players on professional contracts."
The Lions, who beat Western Australia 116-10 on their last tour in 2001, will face weakened opposition in most of the six tour matches they play on the tour in addition to the three tests against the Wallabies.
Australia coach Robbie Deans has already said he will keep his 25-man preliminary squad and the six players he will add to the party next Tuesday out of the provincial teams.
Woodward, who twice toured with the Lions as a player and lived in Australia for several years in the 1980s, was scathing of the Force's decision to include seven players who had never played Super Rugby in their matchday squad.
"It is unacceptable and disgraceful to cobble together a weakened, second-string club team to play against some of the best players in the world on one of the great rugby tours," Woodward wrote in a column in Britain's Daily Mail.
"Treating the Lions with such contempt threatens to undermine their status in the global game.
"The Lions come to Australia once every 12 years but if this is how they are going to be treated in this country then they should seriously consider whether to return."