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English clubs to hold crunch meeting over player release for Lions training camp and Japan match

By Chris Jones
British and Irish Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bristol and Exeter Chiefs at Ashton Gate (Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

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Premiership rugby chiefs will meet tomorrow in an attempt to find a solution to the problem of player release for the British and Irish Lions training camp in Jersey and the warm-up match with Japan in Murrayfield on June 26.


Premiership Rugby, the umbrella organisation for England’s top clubs, has now received the Lions request for the release of players as part of the pre-tour documentation that includes their offer of nearly £45,000 per player compensation. That money will go to the clubs who supply players to the Lions for their eight-match tour of South Africa and that is also the fee each player will receive for taking part in the five-week trip that will be based in Cape Town and Johannesburg/Pretoria to restrict movement due to the impact of the pandemic.

The English club owners are unhappy with the timing of the Japan game which is being staged on the same day as the Premiership final which is the showpiece of the season for the competition’s sponsors and broadcast partners. The clubs point out that the date for the final has been known for three years and they do not understand why the Lions chose to compete directly with the culmination of the English league season.

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However, the English clubs insist that despite this lingering frustration, their main motivation for finding a workable solution to the Lions demands is to ensure the players – English, Scottish and Welsh – who are contracted to Premiership clubs, do not continue to be used as pawns in the dispute.

Gatland Lions Premiership
Warren Gatland (Photo by INPHO/Dan Sheridan via Lions)

RugbyPass understands that following tomorrow’s executive meeting the owners of the Premiership clubs will be consulted before the Lions are informed about the final stance that will be taken by the clubs over the training camp and Japan match. A leading Premiership official said: “PRL will decide this coming week what will happen and we will be able to let our players know exactly what that position is and we are not seeking confrontation.

“It is totally out of order to threaten not to pick players if they cannot attend the training camp. Once again it is rugby shooting itself in the foot and this didn’t need to happen and was avoidable. We have not obligation to release until after the Premiership season is over and we are doing are upmost to deal with a difficult situation for our players.


“The bottom line is that we have a Lions training camp taking place outside the international release regulation period and a match with Japan that is in direct competition to the Premiership final. “

English club officials insist this is not about the money the players or clubs receive from the Lions, it is only about the release of players. Amongst the options open to clubs are; the players could get released for the camp; the players are not released for the Japan game or not released for either.

“When this Lions game with Japan was set up I don’t think they realised there were Scottish and Welsh players involved and assumed it was just English players involved. It is pretty insensitive to arrange a Lions game on the day of our final. Why are they playing on that date? “

The club owners point out that not only will the players be away for the five-week tour, the need to give those chosen a break after the tour and then a managed return to play means they will not be available to the clubs until a week before the November internationals.



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