British & Irish Lions
Lions hint at return to Argentina
Graham Jenkins
October 18, 2010
Lions tour manager Andy Irvine smiles for the cameras, 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour to Australia press conference, London, England, October 18, 2010
Lions tour manager Andy Irvine had some welcome views for Pumas fans on Monday © Getty Images
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British & Irish Lions tour manager Andy Irvine believes that it would be "disrespectful" not to tour Argentina in the future should the Pumas continue to excel on the international stage.

The Lions have visited Argentina on three previous occasions - in 1910, 1927 and most recently in 1936 - but the South American country has long since disappeared from the tour rotation with the southern hemisphere giants of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa taking precedence. But Irvine, recently appointed for the trip to Australia in 2013, can envisage the elite tourists returning to Argentina as a result of their growing stature in the world game.

"I think the Lions have a role to play in trying to promote the game and if Argentina continue to improve as they are doing it would be so disrespectful not to include them," said the former Scotland and Lions international.

The news will come as a boost for Argentina who have risen to prominence in recent years since coming close to a shock win against the Lions in a one-off Test staged in Cardiff in 2005 where a last-gasp Jonny Wilkinson kick saw the 'hosts' snatch a 25-25 draw.

"We thought we would win reasonably comfortably but they gave us one hell of a fright," recalled Irvine. "I actually think that game put Argentina on the map and since then they have hardly looked back and now have huge credibility in world rugby."

Argentina went on to claim third place at the 2007 Rugby World Cup and growing calls for the Pumas to be granted a place in a regular international competition were finally answered earlier this year with a place in an expanded Tri-Nations alongside the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies awaiting them in 2012.

"The current SANZAR deal runs until 2017 when a new agreement will have to be debated," explained Irvine. "And I think the IRB [International Rugby Board] are bound to put pressure on the Lions to include them and they deserve to be as they are a bloody good side. But at the very earliest it would be 2021 before we went back."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.

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