The British and Irish Lions board are determined to ensure the new global season restructuring does not impinge on their desire for future tours to be given more preparation time at the end of the domestic seasons, it is understood.
The Lions board met on Tuesday to discuss the recommendation from the global season talks in San Francisco in January that Lions tours from 2021 would be condensed from 10 games to eight games, as first revealed by Telegraph Sport.
The proposal under discussion is that future tours would also be shortened by one week from six to five weeks, but the Lions board wants to ensure that future tours are given the best chance of success by securing up to two weeks of preparation time from the domestic finals.
It has been a constant gripe in the former Lions head coaches end-of-tour reports that more time is required ahead of the first game to allow players to recover both from the physical demands of domestic finals and also the opportunity to bond as a squad and engender a team spirit.
The Lions board is determined to ensure that the new global season arrangements do not fail to address such concerns. That is likely to see the first Saturday game under the current format scrapped and possibly even the first midweek game as well to give the Lions at least around 10 days to prepare together on tour.
The Lions however are understood to be keen to scrap the midweek fixture ahead of the first Test, so the compromise could see just the first Saturday fixture removed to at least give the tourists a full week to prepare for their first game together.
This season the Lions will depart for New Zealand fewer than three days after the domestic finals on May 27 and Warren Gatland’s side must play their first match four days’ later.
It is understood that yesterday’s deliberations by the Lions board will be communicated to the respective unions and to the clubs and provinces to secure agreement, with a final decision expected before Gatland names his squad for New Zealand on Apr 19.
“We were very encouraged to receive confirmation that as part of the international calendar there is a commitment to the future of the British & Irish Lions,” said Tom Grace, the Lions chairman.
“The schedule of tours was discussed by the Lions board, including ensuring that the team is suitably prepared for the Test series. Those discussions will continue with all relevant stakeholders.”