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Flatman: Lions should consider dropping provincial games

By Ian Cameron
Press Association

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Former England and Bath prop David Flatman believes that the British & Irish Lions should consider dropping provincial games in favour of flying in international competition for future tours.

Flatman argues that the lack of competitiveness during warm-up games in South Africa could be remedied in the 2025 tour of Australia by adding the likes of France or the Pacific Islands as opposition.

“Can anyone reasonably expect the Aussies to field five or six savage Super Rugby teams in the build-up to the Test series to really hammer in to and prepare the Lions?,” wrote Flatman in his column for the “Will it be a Lions tour for the ages, one during which we see every player pushed to his limit and given hell before the career-defining days arrive? Right now, it seems unlikely.

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“To this end, perhaps we ought to consider dropping the provincial games. These games simply do not deliver any longer and as uplifting as it may be to remember that these South African provincial players may count their beatings at the hands of the Lions among the greatest days in their careers, the games were predictable, risk-free affairs, and risk-free doesn’t cut it if we do truly regard the Lions as the pinnacle of rugby selection.”

Flatman argues that an overhaul of the series is needed if rugby is to continue to compete for attention in an increasingly packed out global calendar. Raising the standard of every single Lions game to a Test standard could provide that.

“As counter-intuitive as it may sound, I’d love to see the French included in Australia. Not in Lions selection, of course, but as opposition. Fly them in and send them out against both the Lions and the Wallabies in the weeks leading up to the first Test in proper, full metal jacket international matches. All of the traditions we hold dear begin with someone changing the way things were done, with someone trying something novel and visionary.

“The point is that people would watch it. I’d bet a good sum that Colin the DPD driver would not want to miss the Lions playing France in Sydney, and we’ve just seen how good a French tour to Australia can be. We would still watch the Lions develop, as well as the Wallabies, but this might even add more anticipation ahead of the first Test as it would be the first time Lions and Green and Gold’s had met in anger, creating infinite unknowns and points of conversation over which the fans could speculate over a pint, a curry or a Zoom.

“Bring in a fully loaded Tonga, Fiji and Samoa too, as proper opposition. One match versus each of the South Sea Islands and one or two against France, and you’d be talking about a globally-engaging rugby happening. Every existing Lions fan would be tuning in religiously, as well as new disciples. Think of the audiences from France and from those islands who enrich our game with such brilliance, and the Lions could become more universally and commercially appealing than ever.”



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