• RFU chief defends shorter Lions tours

    Outgoing England boss Ian Ritchie says a reduction in the number of games on the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2021 is the way to go. 

    The Lions have just completed a gruelling but successful 10-match, six-week tour of New Zealand, which raised some concerns over the players' well-being.

    After suggestions of shortened future tours surfaced, Lions players and management alike openly criticised the plan, with the team's tour manager John Spencer arguing it puts the entire concept at risk.

    But Ritchie, who also serves as a Lions director, has given his full backing to the idea of shorter tours.

    An agreement on the global fixture calendar was reached in March, with the Lions scheduled to play only eight matches over the course of five weeks when they travel to South Africa in 2021. 

    'I think the Lions was an essential part of the global season, it is and it remains so. We've clearly agreed it will remain an essential part until at least 2032 and probably beyond,' Ritchie told the BBC.

    'I think eight matches can work. It's more time to acclimatise to the country. The next tour is South Africa, which is pretty much the same [as New Zealand], so you could easily see how you take one game out and it would be helpful losing one more game,' said Ritchie. 'I don't think that would be a great issue.'

    Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images 

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    Mariette Adams