After many years of shortsighted thinking, there is finally some positive news for the British & Irish Lions. In preparation for their expedition to Australia in 2025, they will be given more time to prepare. This comes as England-based squad members will now be available for all pre-tour activities, thanks to the Premiership final being scheduled a week earlier. This adjustment aims to enhance the Lions' chances of success.
In the past, the buildup to recent tours has been overshadowed by disputes over player release. Both the 2017 and 2021 tours faced scheduling conflicts with the Premiership final, which took place the weekend before the opening tour game. However, a new agreement has been reached to improve collaboration between the Lions, the Premiership, and the United Rugby Championship. As part of this arrangement, the 2024-25 Premiership final will be held on 14 June, allowing for better alignment with the Lions' schedule.
The acknowledgment that modern touring teams require more time to gel is long overdue. The Lions have not won a series since 2013, and it has become clear that additional preparation time is crucial. The buildup to the 2021 tour to South Africa was disrupted by a clash between the Lions' warm-up match against Japan in Edinburgh and the Premiership final. In 2017, the squad arrived in New Zealand just three days before the opening match, resulting in jetlagged players dozing off on the bus to the stadium.
Warren Gatland, who coached the Lions on both of these tours, has consistently argued for more preparation time. The next coach, expected to be Ireland's Andy Farrell, will undoubtedly appreciate the extra breathing space before the opening tour fixture against Western Force in Perth on 28 June. This additional time will be two weeks after the anticipated date of the 2025 Premiership final.
Ben Calveley, the Lions' chief executive, expressed his gratitude for the support from Premiership Rugby and the United Rugby Championship in reaching this agreement. He emphasized the importance of collaboration with the clubs for the success of the Lions. Simon Massie-Taylor, the chief executive of Premiership Rugby, also praised the inclusivity of the deal. He recognized the need to work closely with all stakeholders in order for the game to thrive and grow. He highlighted the significance of providing the players with the best possible preparation time in history, as it is vital for both the Lions and Premiership Rugby to support each other both on and off the pitch.
In other news, the 2021 Lions Test hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie is set to make his debut for Sale, coming off the bench in their upcoming match against Newcastle on Friday. Cowan-Dickie was unable to join England's World Cup squad due to a long-standing neck problem.
Overall, this new agreement to provide the Lions with more preparation time is a welcome development. It is a step in the right direction towards ensuring the Lions have the best possible chances of success in their future endeavors.