Plan to shorten Six Na­tions for Lions’ sake

The Timaru Herald - - SPORT -

The Rugby Foot­ball Union and Celtic Unions are at log­ger­heads over a plan to en­sure the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions have more time to pre­pare for tours.

Nigel Melville, the RFU in­terim chief ex­ec­u­tive, has at­tempted to in­sti­gate talks be­tween Premier­ship clubs and the Lions re­gard­ing player re­lease and train­ing time.

But the clubs have re­sisted de­mands to cut their sea­son by one week in sea­sons (ev­ery four years) when the Lions are tour­ing, mean­ing Melville will re­visit an old pro­posal.

The Lions are keen to avoid a re­peat of last year’s tour of New Zealand, when the War­ren Gat­land-coached Lions ar­rived in the coun­try just four days be­fore their first fix­ture – against the Pro­vin­cial Bar­bar­ians in Whangarei. Pre­vi­ous at­tempts to re­duce the Six Na­tions from seven to six weeks, by flag­ging one of two rest week­ends, had been re­jected.

The RFU is set to re­visit the the plan ahead of the Lions’ tour of South Africa in 2021, which will con­sist of eight matches, two fewer than re­cent tours.

‘‘They need week,’’ Melville an ex­tra told the Daily Mail. ‘‘If ev­ery four years we move the Six Na­tions from seven to six weeks, you cre­ate that. So why don’t we do that?’’

The over­bear­ing in­flu­ence of English clubs didn’t sit well with many after last year’s Lions’ tour, after they re­fused to al­ter their sched­ules.

Melville wants that to change, but isn’t hold­ing his breath.

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