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British and Irish Lions Tour: Truncated tour of South Africa removes the last vestige of romance from Lions

Every four years the British & Irish Lions unveil a tantalizing tour schedule and invite thousands of supporters to sign up for the trip of a lifetime, in this instance to South Africa in 2021. Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

British and Irish Lions Tour: Truncated tour of South Africa removes the last vestige of romance from Lions
British and Irish Lions Tour: Truncated tour of South Africa removes the last vestige of romance from Lions

A three-Test series on Springbok soil remains one of the sport’s truly great adventures but seldom has there been a stronger sense of the golden goose being potentially suffocated by the constraints of self-interest and the global calendar.

Amid all the anticipation of a gripping three-Test series against the reigning world champions which could break all previous box office records, it is important to examine the small print. Not only have Premiership Rugby now formally slammed the door shut on any possibility of shifting the date of its 2021 final on 26 June to accommodate crucial extra preparation time but the scheduling of only two early midweek games sums up the fast-changing times.

To a great extent, it signals the end for that most time-honored of rugby characters, the midweek dirt-tracker. Much of the glorious Lions myth is built upon the twin pillars of genuine competition for Test places and the all-for-one ethos of those cast in supporting roles.

An eight-match tour with no competitive warm-up component means the head coach Warren Gatland can travel with a smaller squad who, for the most part, will know their place in the pecking order before embarkation. Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

There are player welfare benefits from playing fewer games and not having to worry about a midweek fixture in the build-up to the first Test but eight-match Lions tours 2025 and 2029 will be the same threaten to remove any last vestige of romance attached to the concept.

Even if the players bond instantly the timescale is almost insanely tight if Gatland wants to mold a side capable of beating a pumped-up South Africa in front of nearly 90,000 supporters at Soweto’s FNB Stadium on 24 July.

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British and Irish Lions legend slams All Blacks ‘decider’ idea prior to SA tour

Former Ireland and British & Irish Lions captain Willie John McBride is not in favor of the idea of a “decider” with the All Blacks prior to the Lions’ tour of South Africa next year. Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

British and Irish Lions legend slams All Blacks 'decider' idea prior to SA tour
British and Irish Lions legend slams All Blacks ‘decider’ idea prior to SA tour

“It’s completely alien to the ethos and history of the Lions. For the Lions to play a home Test match is nonsense. That’s the problem with the world of professional sport at the moment. It’s about money not about sport. Therefore, this is going to be played for money. It would be meaningless,” McBride told The Rugby Paper.

The 79-year-old was responding to comments made by Lions coach Warren Gatland, who called for a Lions v All Blacks encounter to settle matters from the drawn series in 2017. Gatland oversaw the Lions’ 2017 tour to New Zealand when a 15-15 deadlock at Eden Park meant the three-Test series ended 1-1.

Players from both sides expressed disappointment at the time that no one had won the series and Gatland said a one-off Test next year could decide the issue once and for all. He said rugby chiefs needed to think creatively to generate much-needed revenue when the game restarts after the coronavirus pandemic.

“Is it something the All Blacks could do, go up there and we could do a bit of a decider before we go off to South Africa at the end of June next year? Potentially it’s a chance to make £4-5 million to put some money back into the coffers that we’re going to need,” Gatland told New Zealand’s Sky Sports.

But McBride added his dismay, saying rugby has been damaged because it was no longer being run by “rugby people”. Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

British and Irish Lions legend slams All Blacks 'decider' idea prior to SA tour
British and Irish Lions legend slams All Blacks ‘decider’ idea prior to SA tour

“Now it’s run by [supposed] financial wizards. If they’re going to have a Lions, then have a proper Lions tour. They keep saying they can’t squeeze the Lions into the curriculum once every four years, yet they always seem to find room for some stupid idea to fill Twickenham.”

McBride played 63 Tests for Ireland and 17 for the Lions between 1962 and 1975.

South African rugby fans will remember him as the captain of the invincible Lions of 1974, who left these shores unbeaten after a 22-game tour.

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British and Irish Lions Tour: The Steve Hansen interview Why I’m still so annoyed about the Lions series

For the majority of people, the 2017 drawn Test series between the All Blacks and the Lions is remembered as a compelling rugby saga, a piece of pure sporting drama. Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

British and Irish Lions Tour: The Steve Hansen interview Why I'm still so annoyed about the Lions series
British and Irish Lions Tour: The Steve Hansen interview Why I’m still so annoyed about the Lions series

So, with time having passed, I wondered whether the man who coached the host nation was now able to see it in that light and just be happy to have been a part of it. Knowing Steve Hansen as I do, I should have known better.

“No, he replies, “because I don’t think I coached as well as I could have that year. I was pretty disappointed in myself and some of the coaching decisions I made. I also know it could have gone drastically in a different way. There was that red card in the second Test and we led well deep into that game.”

“Then to lose it on a penalty where a guy tackles a guy jumping to catch the ball from a poor pass when everyone knows that wasn’t intentional of that rule, that’s frustrating. Then the last game was frustrating with the decision at the end that was so obvious to everybody, but no-one wanted to admit to it.”

“So those things they hang around and play on your mind. But the biggest thing that stops me from moving on is really how I coached because I think I could have done it better.” Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

“Oh, you just know,” he says, speaking down the line from his home in Christchurch. I made a couple of decisions that I look back on and think I shouldn’t have done that. It’s the same with the World Cup, the week of the semi-final against England. There were a couple of things I could have driven differently that I didn’t do and you kind of wish you had.”

British and Irish Lions Tour: The Steve Hansen interview Why I'm still so annoyed about the Lions series
British and Irish Lions Tour: The Steve Hansen interview Why I’m still so annoyed about the Lions series

“Look any Lions series is great because it brings so much more than a normal series because it brings the combination of four different countries to do battle against one and it also brings a whole lot of supporters. I love the Lions concept and it disappoints me they have shortened the tour to South Africa next year.”

It’s abundantly clear Hansen hasn’t been able to put what happened in 2017 to bed yet, so I wonder what he makes of Warren Gatland’s suggestion of staging a decider next year ahead of the Lions tour of South Africa.

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British and Irish Lions Tour: Dan Carter ranked 10th-best first-five of all-time by outspoken British columnist

British rugby writer Stephen Jones has listed Dan Carter as only the 10th best first-five of all-time, instead opting for a left-field selection for his pick at No. 1. Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

British and Irish Lions Tour: Dan Carter ranked 10th-best first-five of all-time by outspoken British columnist
British and Irish Lions Tour: Dan Carter ranked 10th-best first-five of all-time by outspoken British columnist

Writing for the Sunday Times alongside fellow pundit Stuart Barnes, the pair ranked Carter in vastly different positions, with Barnes placing the former All Blacks pivot at the top of his rankings.

It isn’t the first time the duo has disagreed about the status of an All Blacks legend, with Jones last week leaving former New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw out of his top 10 all-time test captains, while Barnes placed him at No. 1.

Jones didn’t even have Carter listed as his best All Blacks playmaker, with Andrew Mehrtens selected three spots higher seventh place. Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

Instead, he picked Welsh dual international David Watkins as his top pick, labeling the former British and Irish Lions and Great Britain rugby league star as “first sporting hero”.

Jones went on to describe Watkins as “character and entertainer, a man of no particular size but who was successful in the jealous cauldron of rugby league, who beat the All Blacks playing for his only union club, Newport, played gloriously for Wales, captained the Lions in test matches. He had a prime kicking game, was a master tactician, durable among the beasts of forwarding play. He was a dazzling runner.”

British and Irish Lions Tour: Dan Carter ranked 10th-best first-five of all-time by outspoken British columnist
British and Irish Lions Tour: Dan Carter ranked 10th-best first-five of all-time by outspoken British columnist

At the other end of the spectrum, he spoke of Carter reaching two peaks during his career – once during the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand, and again 10 years later at the World Cup in England.

“He enjoyed a splendid run after injury in the 2011 World Cup and was probably at the second career peak in 2015 when the All Blacks won again,” Jones wrote. “His first peak was when he took majestic charge of a thumping 3-0 series victory over the 2005 Lions.” Meanwhile, Barnes, the former England and Lions playmaker, had no qualms in distinguishing Carter as “the greatest No. 10 of them all”.

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Agustin Pichot wants the British and Irish Lions to travel to new destinations

The British and Irish Lions could tour the Americas as part of Agustin Pichot’s vision to globalize the sport if he is elected World Rugby chairman. Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

Pichot wants the Lions to travel to new destinations as well as the traditional territories of Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Agustin Pichot wants the British and Irish Lions to travel to new destinations
Agustin Pichot wants the British and Irish Lions to travel to new destinations

The Argentine is running against incumbent Sir Bill Beaumont and he wants to revolutionize the sport, despite being snubbed by the Six Nations unions. If he wins, he hopes to open talks with the Lions to see if they will collaborate with him.

‘People think I don’t like tradition, but I speak to Lions players like Brian O’Driscoll and it’s a great product,’ Pichot told Sports mail. ‘I love it. There is still room for the Lions. It is a traditional thing but we can still add a modern look to it.

‘I would use the Lions on a more worldwide scale. I would like to see that brand travel even further. They would be very popular in North and South America but that’s a conversation to have with the CEO of the Lions.’

Entering the final week of campaigning, Beaumont and Pichot are lobbying to win the 11 remaining swing votes. Pichot has the support of the SANZAAR unions, but he revealed his email proposals did not even receive a reply from five of the Six Nations unions.

Agustin Pichot wants the British and Irish Lions to travel to new destinations
Agustin Pichot wants the British and Irish Lions to travel to new destinations

I would like to talk to each union,’ said Pichot. ‘I sent a personal note to every country and I haven’t had any replies from some of the CEOs. Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

‘I only received one email asking me about the future of the game from the Six Nations unions that was Wales and I think that’s poor. Every CEO should be responsible for learning what is best for the game, even if they don’t support you.’

Beaumont’s re-election bid has suffered a blow after World Rugby started an inquiry into allegations of homophobia against Fiji Rugby Union chairman Francis Kean, who has a conviction for manslaughter and whose organization seconded Beaumont’s nomination.

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British and Irish Lions Tour: Waikato overseas international XV from the professional era

This squad is an XV, as well as a list of honorable mentions, of players who have represented Waikato as well as a foreign international team. Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

The team has been selected from players with the professional era of rugby, 1987 Rugby World Cup to present. He also played for the Māori All Blacks and played against the British and Irish Lions on their tour of New Zealand in 2005.

British and Irish Lions Tour: Waikato overseas international XV from professional era
British and Irish Lions Tour: Waikato overseas international XV from professional era

Four years later Manu made his international debut for Fiji against Scotland. He became a regular captain and captained the side at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Manu played 14 games for Fiji from 2009-2012. From 2006 till 2014 he played for Welsh club Scarlets amassing 154 games for the side before retiring.

Manu is now very involved in building the game of rugby in Asia and among other roles he is a World Rugby Coach Educator there. Smith played for Fiji from 1995-2003 as well, qualifying through his Fijian father. He captained the squad at the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

Smith was internationally capped 46 times for Fiji from 70 games played for the country. From 1997-2003 he played 48 games for the Chiefs in the Super 12. These days he is the referee manager for the Waikato Rugby Union and an athlete life advisor for High Performance Sport New Zealand.

Ben Tameifuna is the nephew of former Hawke’s Bay, Chiefs and Tongan prop Sona Taumalolo and has played for those same three teams. Tameifuna played for Hawke’s Bay for two seasons before moving to play for Waikato from 2013-2015. From 2012-2015 he was a regular player for the Chiefs, appearing 65 times for the Super Rugby team.

British and Irish Lions Tour: Waikato overseas international XV from professional era
British and Irish Lions Tour: Waikato overseas international XV from professional era

Tameifuna was called into the All Blacks squad at the age of 20 in 2012 but never took the field. Five years later he made he international debut for Tonga against Wales. So far, he has 13 test caps for Tonga and played two of their games at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Since leaving Waikato in 2015, Tameifuna has played for French rugby side Racing 92 and has played just short of 100 games for the club. Post Rugby World Cup he tipped the scales at 160kg. Racing 92 told him that he had to lose weight in order to take the field for them again.

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The British & Irish Lions are always something pretty special

The British & Irish Lions are something pretty special. To those familiar with the history of world rugby, I know I speak to the converted when succumbing to the seductive nature of the Lions in South Africa. Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

To those who may not be quite as versed in the significance of the Lions, next year’s eight-event rugby carnival in South Africa can’t come soon enough.

The British & Irish Lions are always something pretty special
The British & Irish Lions are always something pretty special

If you don’t make it to the stadiums or the fan villages, then just get in front of your television. If you love an occasion, then you are going to get eight of them. If sport is your thing, then the Lions has to be your thing.

If you embraced Soccer’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010, you are already an ambassador for the Lions visit to South Africa. Rugby fans can book British and Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

My first stadium experience of the Lions was on the 31st of May, 1980 at Newlands. I’d read about the Lions, been awed by the results of the 1974 squad and had a vague recollection of seeing newspaper imagery of the men in red that looked like Wales at first glance but had different socks.

The Lions in 1980 was the first full rugby tour to South Africa that I could appreciate. I had been fortunate to watch my hero Robbie Blair kick Western Province to victory against the All Blacks at Newlands in 1976. Blair had uncharacteristically missed several penalties kicks that afternoon but he nailed the only one that mattered with a last-minute touchline conversion.

I’d also got to see the 1976 All Blacks play at the old Goodwood Showgrounds against the Federation XV. I recall the excitement of those matches, but the anticipation of the Lions against the Springboks at Newlands in 1980 was a very new experience.

The British & Irish Lions are always something pretty special
The British & Irish Lions are always something pretty special

I’d also get to see two of my favorite South African rugby players combine in a national jersey, when traditionally they had been the greatest of foes playing for Western Province and Northern Transvaal respectively. I’d willed Rob Louw to chase down Naas Botha so many times and for Nasty to put the boot into any team but Western Province. Now I was cheering them on, even if my father was firmly on the side of the Lions.

I always felt there was a part of me that could never lose when the Boks played the All Blacks or the British & Irish Lions. My mom was Kiwi, of Maori heritage and my father was born in England, of Irish heritage.

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British And Irish Lions Tour: Clayton McMillan appointed interim head coach for 2021 Gallagher Chiefs

Chiefs Rugby Club and New Zealand Rugby have announced Clayton McMillan as interim head coach of the Gallagher Chiefs for next year’s Investec Super Rugby campaign. Rugby fans can book British And Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

McMillan has signed a one-year contract with New Zealand Rugby to teach the Gallagher Chiefs while head coach Warren Gatland leads British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

British And Irish Lions Tour: Clayton McMillan appointed interim head coach for 2021 Gallagher Chiefs
British And Irish Lions Tour: Clayton McMillan appointed interim head coach for 2021 Gallagher Chiefs

Current Maori All Blacks head coach and Bay of Plenty Rugby Union director of rugby, McMillan has been instrumental within the success of Bay of Plenty Rugby Union’s High-Performance program during his tenure with a powerful record including last year’s Miter 10 Cup Championship title.

His coaching ability was recognized in 2017 when has was appointed head coach of the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians side who faced British and Irish Lions during their 2017 tour of latest Zealand and was announced as head coach of the Maori All Blacks that very same year.

Chiefs Rugby Club CEO Michael Collins commended McMillan on his appointment

“We are excited for Clayton to steer the Gallagher Chiefs in 2021. he’s a talented coach and was a stand-out candidate. “He boasts a superb diary of developing players and delivering success.

“Not only during his tenure because of the director of rugby for the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union, but during the Maori All Blacks and New Zealand Provincial Barbarians campaigns. Rugby fans can book British And Irish Lions Tour Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.

“Clayton is not any stranger to the Gallagher Chiefs team having already worked alongside assistant coaches Roger Randle and David Hill and variety of the Gallagher Chiefs playing group,” said Collins.

British And Irish Lions Tour: Clayton McMillan appointed interim head coach for 2021 Gallagher Chiefs
British And Irish Lions Tour: Clayton McMillan appointed interim head coach for 2021 Gallagher Chiefs

New Zealand Rugby Head of Professional Rugby Chris Lendrum congratulated McMillan on his appointment. “It’s a singular opportunity and that I am sure Clayton has the mana to figure within the Chiefs environment and still repose on what Gats and his crew are currently achieving.”

McMillan said he was grateful for the prospect to steer the Gallagher Chiefs

“Super Rugby has certainly been a goal of mine; there’s an incredible pool of gifted athletes to figure with alongside an experienced and talented management group.”

“This is great recognition for Clayton. We are delighted for him and proud. He has been an impressive contributor for Bay of Plenty Rugby and therefore the Maori All Blacks.

“It was only getting to be a matter of your time before he was getting to achieve success in gaining an edge at the Gallagher Chiefs or another Super Rugby franchise.”

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