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Murrayfield set to host Lions 'home' Test ahead of Aviva and Principality stadiums


A general view of Murrayfield Stadium

A general view of Murrayfield Stadium

A general view of Murrayfield Stadium

Murrayfield looks to have beaten off competition from the Aviva and Principality stadiums to host the Lions' home Test in June next year.

It is understood that the Edinburgh venue is favourite to stage the visit of Japan, the first home Lions Test since Argentina came to Cardiff in 2005.

The Lions are understood to be keen to play Japan in Edinburgh to appeal to the Celtic market and would aim ticket sales at Irish and Welsh fans as well as Scots.

Organisers are hopeful that the 67,000-capacity stadium would sell out. The match precedes the Lions tour of South Africa in July and August, for which an estimated 30,000 fans are expected to travel.

It has been estimated that the Lions would raise around £5m (€5.5m) by hosting this pre-tour match, whereas revenue from match tickets in South Africa will go to the home union.

Closer to home, Connacht's squad will undergo a major shake-up in the off-season after confirmation that 12 players will depart the club.

In a major surprise, winger Niyi Adeolokun (94 appearances), who has been capped by Ireland, has been released along with fellow experienced duo Eoin McKeon (137 appearances) and Darragh Leader (91).

The 28-year-old McKeon, a Galway native, made his debut back in 2010 and went on to become a real leader in the dressing-room.

Adeolokun, meanwhile, played a huge role in Connacht winning the 2016 PRO12 title, and since joining in 2014, the winger has been a crowd favourite at the Sportsground.

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Head coach Andy Friend has also decided to plan ahead without Leader, another Galway man, whose versatility has been very useful over the years.

Hooker Tom McCartney is understood to have returned to New Zealand after deciding to hang up his boots, while scrum-half Angus Lloyd has done the same after recently becoming a qualified doctor. Colby Fainga'a's move to Lyon had already been confirmed, as had Robin Copeland's switch to Soyaux Angouleme.

Elsewhere, Joe Schmidt has admitted that he is still deeply frustrated by the manner in which his six-year tenure as Ireland head coach ended.

Ireland failed to fire a shot against New Zealand in last year's 46-14 World Cup quarter-final loss, which Schmidt revealed still gives him nightmares.

"You just think, 'We can solve that, we can solve that,'" Schmidt told Off The Ball. "At some stage you have to step away and if you go back in at some stage, it's got to be disassociated with your previous job or previous role because you want to keep going forward.

"At the moment I keep going back and reliving a bit of a nightmare when you are ready to go forward."