British & Irish Lions
McGeechan hits out at Lions schedule
ESPN Staff
April 19, 2013
Lions head coach Ian McGeechan talks to the media ahead of the tour clash with the Sharks, Durban, South Africa, Jun 8, 2009
Sir Ian McGeechan has a long association with the Lions © Getty Images

Sir Ian McGeechan has criticised the English and Celtic league's organisers for scheduling their respective finals so close to the British & Irish Lions' departure to Australia.

Warren Gatland's side fly out just 48 hours after the finals of the Aviva Premiership and the RaboDirect PRO12 on May 25 - a factor McGeechan, who has been on seven tours as a player and a coach, has labelled "short-sighted and unfair".

McGeechan led the Lions to South Africa in 2009 and he recommended post-tour that this year's trip to Australia should include a longer spell of downtime between the end of the domestic season and the start of the Lions tour. But instead, Gatland's men will have less time before they kick-off their tour against the Barbarians on June 1.

"It is short-sighted and unfair," McGeechan said. "They could have had a couple of midweek domestic matches during the season and finished a week earlier. It's extremely disappointing that they did not take up on that. They have to be big enough to do these things properly. The Lions is the biggest thing in a player's mind. It's the biggest rugby event too in the eyes of spectators.

"There will always be time constraints. But give Warren a week before departure. That would not be perfect but it would be fair. What we've done instead is build in unfairness. He faces an even bigger challenge in that regard than I did in 2009. Does he leave with one hand tied behind his back? Yes, I believe he does."

Gatland will unveil his squad and captain for the Lions tour on April 30. One man who is in the running to skipper the Lions is Munster lock Paul O'Connell, who McGeechan chose to lead his team in 2009. O'Connell has missed much of the season due to injury, but his recent performances have propelled him into the reckoning for a spot on the tour and maybe the honour of leading the group.

McGeechan told the Times of O'Connell's recent performances: "Second row is one of the areas where you want that sort of experience His performance against Quins was formidable, somebody who had the desire to make something happen. When you put a Lions jersey on him, he can do the same."

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