British and Irish Lions legend slams Warren Gatland's one-off All Blacks match proposal
Former British and Irish Lions captain Willie John McBride has lambasted Warren Gatland’s proposal for the Lions to face the All Blacks in a one-off match prior to their 2021 tour of South Africa.
Gatland last week suggested that a belated ‘decider’ for the drawn 2017 series in New Zealand could be played between the All Blacks and the Lions – potentially at Twickenham – as a warm-up fixture ahead of next year’s eight-match trip.
The Chiefs and Lions coach reasoned that the potential fixture could also be used as much-needed money-generator in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, indicating that the match could yield more than NZ$10m in revenue.
However, McBride – the Irish lock who is arguably the greatest British and Irish Lion of all-time after touring five times and playing in 17 tests for the composite side between 1962 and 1974 – rebuked the idea in an interview with The Rugby Paper.
“It’s completely alien to the ethos and history of the Lions,” the 79-year-old, who played 63 tests for Ireland and captained the Lions to their first-ever series win over South Africa 46 years ago, said.
“For the Lions to play a home test match is nonsense.
“That’s the problem with the world of professional sport at the moment. It’s about money not about sport.
“Therefore this (Lions v All Blacks) is going to be played for money. It would be meaningless.”
McBride also suggested that there was a sense of contradiction in regards to Lions fixtures, with organising bodies often calling for reduced Lions tours amid condensed rugby calendars, which is a notion that goes against the grain of Gatland’s concept.
With the World Rugby elections on the horizon, former Argentina skipper and World Rugby chairman candidate Augustin Pichot is campaigning for a better global calendar to help modernise the game worldwide.
“Lessons should have been learnt but they have messed it up,” McBride told The Rugby Paper.
“The ethos of the game has been damaged so much. It used to be run by rugby people. Now it’s run by (supposed) financial wizards.
“If they’re going to have a Lions, then have a proper Lions tour.
“They keep saying they can’t squeeze the Lions into the curriculum once every four years, yet they always seem to find room for some stupid idea to fill Twickenham.”
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