British and Irish Lions tour will be cut, says Premiership Rugby

Mark Dobson
The British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton and head coach Warren Gatland will lead the last six-week tour during this summer after changes to the global rugby calendar. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

The British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand this summer will be the last in its existing six-week format, Premiership Rugby has confirmed.

Mark McCafferty, chief executive of the umbrella organisation for the 12 English clubs, has echoed the stance of his Rugby Football Union counterpart, Ian Ritchie, that the tours must be shortened as part of the new global season that comes into effect in 2020.

The former Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll is among an army of dissenting voices who have demanded that tours are retained in their current six-week, 10-match guise, but McCafferty says things need to change.

“We have been fairly outspoken. At the start of the season we said we were unhappy about the intensity of the schedule that had been signed up several years ago and it needs to change,” McCafferty said.

“To go through this kind of programme in the future is not feasible. To be playing 10 matches in a five-week period is too much and our views on that have not changed.

“Hopefully come 2021 some of those changes will come into place and they have largely been agreed. The duration of the tour is scheduled to come down by a week so that will mean a decrease in games.

“Ultimately it is up to the Lions how many games they put into the time frame, but we have a big interest in how players are managed through that.”

It is understood that Premiership Rugby are considering a Ryder Cup-style global club competition between northern and southern hemispheres, while South African Currie Cup teams could be invited to join the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes