McCafferty slams ‘unsustainable’ Lions tour

Date published: August 28 2016

The schedule for the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 2017 has been heavily criticised by English rugby bosses.

Premiership Rugby CEO Mark McCafferty labelled the 10-match tour “not sustainable” for players. The squad is scheduled to depart for New Zealand before the Premiership and PRO12 finals as the first match takes place on the same weekend as the Top14 final in France.

If a club like Toulon were to play in the final it would rule out a player like Leigh Halfpenny from touring with the Lions. However, McCafferty is more concerned with the length of the tour so soon after the Northern Hemisphere season.

“It is going to be very difficult next year,” McCafferty told 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.”

The first game of the 10-match series is scheduled for June 3, 2017, with the final fixture coming against the All Blacks on July 8.