British & Irish Lions Tour 2013
Irvine calls for calendar re-vamp
September 7, 2012
Tour manager Andy Irvine welcomes the appointment of coach Warren Gatland earlier this week © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions boss Andy Irvine has called for a re-vamp of the international rugby calendar to ensure that future tours are not subjected to the constraints that his side must live with next year.
Irvine, the former Lions fullback who will serve as tour manager for the eagerly-anticipated 10-game tour of Hong Kong and Australia next summer, has questioned an enforced schedule that will see any players involved in the finale to the domestic season not link up with the squad until the day of departure.
In addition, any Lions hopefuls playing in France face missing out altogether with the Top 14 final set to be played the same day as the Lions opening tour clash against the Barbarians. Gatland hopes to have a preliminary squad gathering before the Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect PRO12 reach a climax but Irvine admitted it was far from ideal.
"The fixture calendar is far too congested," Irvine said. "Something will have to be done. We have one more Lions tour after next year under the current agreement and, when we renew it, we have to make sure that the Lions have proper preparation time. That means the four home unions sitting down with SANZAR, the clubs and the International Rugby Board to make sure that we get it right.
"The Lions are hugely popular, as the tens of thousands who follow every tour prove. It is to the benefit of everyone in the game that this unique institution continues because of the interest it generates but that means giving the coaches and players the preparation time they need. One solution would be putting the start of the tour back to the middle of June but, with the Rugby Championship having been expanded to include Argentina, we would need to see how that fitted in with the southern hemisphere schedule."
Irvine's sentiments were echoed by Lions chairman Gerald Davies who commented: "The Lions is a remarkable sporting phenomenon," said Davies. "I am very disappointed that the domestic fixture schedule could not be changed but I am not going to complain. Whingeing is the first step to losing and all we are thinking about is winning the series."
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