Former British & Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan is concerned about the team’s future as they face a shortened trip to South Africa in 2021.
Due to upcoming changes to the English domestic season, the Lions’ tour is expected to be reduced from 10 matches in six weeks to eight in five.
English officials have insisted that Premiership players will not be granted additional time to train with the Lions. The 2021 Premiership final will take place on 26 June with the first Lions match set to kick off just a week later.
McGeechan – who coached the Lions five times, including on their previous tour to South Africa in 2009 – wrote in a column for Stuff.co.nz that the changes will harm the Lions’ competitiveness in 2021.
‘Long-term, there has to be a concern for the tourists’ future. If we do not allow the Lions to be competitive in a Test series, then we are not doing the players justice and not allowing them to create that special environment. The danger is that you actually make it too difficult to win Test matches.
‘It will be a hell of a challenge for the players and coaches in South Africa just to be Test-match ready, and for the coaches to have given all the players a chance to work in a Lions jersey. New combinations and challenges need time.
‘From 26-week tours, we have seen the Lions decrease to 14, to 12 and to 10 weeks. But limiting the tour to just five weeks shows a certain lack of awareness regarding what the Lions are about, what the Lions mean to people, and the amount of work and time required to make a Lions tour a success.’
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