British & Irish Lions
Lions tour to Argentina unlikely in 'immediate future'
June 7, 2013
SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters has played down any hopes of a Lions tour to Argentina in the near future © Getty Images
SANZAR have played down Argentina's chances of hosting another British & Irish Lions tour in the near future.
The Lions have been urged to re-consider their touring schedule - that currently incorporates Australia, New Zealand and South Africa - following the decision by Australian side Western Force to field an under-strength side in their meeting with the elite tourists in Perth on Wednesday - a game that ended in a 69-17 victory for the elite tourists.
Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan called the Force's decision "disrespectful" although the hosts claimed it was based on player welfare due to a Super Rugby fixture this coming weekend. Another former Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward was another to slam the Force's selection policy and believes Australia are jeopardising the chance to host future tours by treating their rivals with "contempt".
However, speaking ahead of the tour, SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters revealed that the southern hemisphere giants were unlikely to consider the addition of Argentina to the Lions' tour rotation when the existing broadcasting rights deal expires in 2015.
"I don't see any change to the Lions tour pattern in the immediate future," Peters told ESPN. "It is a successful model and the three SANZAR unions already wish it [a Lions tour] would come around sooner than it does now."
SANZAR welcomed Argentina into a regular annual competition - the Rugby Championship - last year with a Super Rugby presence the next logical step for Argentina where the game remains amateur. "We are well aware of their aspirations and they play in one of our competition so we are at the early stage of looking at the future and that is certainly one consideration," added Peters.
Argentina have played host to three previous tours - in 1910, 1927 and 1936 - but the lack of a professional club set-up means the rugby-mad country cannot currently provide enough quality opposition for the Lions outside of a Test series against the Pumas to warrant the staging of a 10-game tour like the current one.
The Argentina Rugby Union's (UAR) best hope appears to be featuring in a warm-up clash as they did in 2005 ahead of the Lions tour to New Zealand. The widespread criticism of the Lions' opening clash with the Barbarians in Hong Kong earlier this month, their desire to be tested by a leading side and Argentina's clear passion for the game would appear to strengthen the Pumas' case for a re-match ahead of the 2017 tour to New Zealand.
But Peters stressed that SANZAR were delighted with what Argentina brought to the annual battle for southern hemisphere supremacy. "We were very happy with how it went last year, both with Argentina's performance on the field, where I never had any doubt that they would acquit themselves very well, and off it.
"The crowds were good, they had good commercial arrangements and support from local government. The atmosphere at the grounds was just electric. It was amazing. I have never heard anything like it except when I went to a Boca Juniors football match - also in Buenos Aires. It was an amazing atmosphere and a credit to them, the UAR, the coaching and management team and the Pumas players. It bodes well for the future."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.