Premiership Rugby agree to release players for British and Irish Lions training camp and Japan clash

Will Macpherson
·2-min read
<p>The British and Irish Lions are due to tour South Africa this summer</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

The British and Irish Lions are due to tour South Africa this summer

(AFP via Getty Images)

Premiership Rugby has confirmed an agreement with the British and Irish Lions over the release of its clubs’ players for a training camp in Jersey and the warm-up fixture against Japan.

The Lions are due to train in Jersey before a fixture against Japan at Murrayfield on June 26 ahead of departure for South Africa, where they will play eight matches - including three Tests against the world champion Springboks.

The catch is that June 26 also happens to be the day of the Premiership Final and the league was only obliged to release its players – from any of the 13 member clubs, not just those involved in the final – after that date.

The Japan fixture falls outside the World Rugby Regulation 9 window for release of players.

Lions coach Warren Gatland warned last week that this could influence selection for the tour, with England players impacted heavily but Scots like Stuart Hogg and Welshmen like Louis Rees-Zammit also affected.

But an agreement has now been reached confirming that those Premiership players can join the Lions as soon as their own domestic season is completed, meaning those in the final will miss the Japan fixture.

The move comes with a warning, however, that Premiership Rugby will not budge again on player release before its final for future Lions tours.

“We will continue to honour our commitments around player-release, under Regulation 9, and encourage all parties in rugby to work more closely to avoid situations like this happening in the future,” read a Premiership statement.

The Lions, meanwhile, welcomed the move.

“We are very grateful to Premiership Rugby and PRO14 for the release of players after they have concluded their domestic commitments,” said Jason Leonard, Lions chairman. “In particular we would like to thank Phil Winstanley for his diligence in helping us reach an agreement.”

Premiership Rugby’s statement added: “We know how much the Lions Tour means to rugby fans and players and we wish the Lions every success. We are sure our players will make a huge contribution.

“Throughout the negotiations, Premiership Rugby has sought a solution that works for everyone – the players, the clubs and the Lions.

“This discussion was never just about money. Premiership clubs are at the very heart of English rugby - helping to nurture the pipeline of talent which supports the international game and future Lions Tours.

“It is essential that we are properly consulted - and our position respected - when fixtures are scheduled which impact the domestic season.”

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