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Rugby Australia planning to include Fiji, Tonga in 2025 Lions tour

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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Rugby Australia [RA] are reportedly eager to include Fiji and Tonga in the 2025 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia.

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Fresh in the wake of the recently-completed Lions tour of South Africa, which culminated in a 2-1 test series win to the Springboks, RA chairman Hamish McLennan has revealed he wants add a revolutionary twist to the next tour in four years’ time.

“People are already excited about it. The Lions is the high point in the calendar but it’s the fans that complete it. We want it to be full blown, with as many of them over here as possible,” McLennan told the Daily Mail.

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Sam Whitelock on All Blacks ruck penalties against the Wallabies in Bledisloe I

“We want to anchor it back into what a traditional Lions tour looks like for the fans and the players. We want to deliver competitive games against our teams and we’d also like to bring in countries like Fiji and Tonga.

“We want to boost the marketability of the tour and that’s what a lot of people would love to see.’

Such a move would be a significant for the British and Irish Lions, who have only played one test match against a Pacific Island nation in the team’s 133-year history.

That test came in 1977, when the Lions beat Fiji 25-21 in Suva upon their return home from New Zealand after being defeated by the All Blacks across a four-match test series.

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The Lions made history ahead of their tour to South Africa in June when they hosted Japan at Murrayfield in Edinburgh in what was the first-ever clash between the two sides.

Warren Gatland’s side ran out 28-10 victors in that match, but it seems more history could be made when the Lions travel Down Under for their 2025 tour.

McLennan told the Daily Mail that, as rugby union in Australia struggles to compete with rival football codes in the AFL and NRL, the inclusion of Pacific Island nations and the implementation of free-flowing, attacking rugby will help attract fans.

“Our guys will play a very different style of rugby,” McLennan said in reference to the much-derided style of play on show in the Lions’ test series against the Springboks.

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“We’re trying to rediscover the style of play that made us famous. That free-flowing attack. Go back to the Ella Brother, Jason Little, Tim Horan. Those guys were fabulous.

“The ratings were off the charts for our games against France last month. The games were great, close and entertaining.

“We’ve got some great young guys coming through. Noah Lolesio is already proving he can handle pressure moments and our Under 20s are going pretty well.

“We know we need to entertain. We’re competing against other winter sports in AFL and NRL and we’re aware we need to sell ourselves.”

McLennan added he anticipates the advent of COVID-19 will have passed by the time the next Lions tour rolls around, which could lead to six-figure crowds.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground, which holds up to 100,000 people, has reportedly already expressed interest in hosting a test, and McLennan is eager to stage more matches than were on show in South Africa.

This year’s tour was condensed to eight matches rather than its usual 10, but McLennan wants a full complement of fixtures spread across Australia.

“The more games the better because it gets it out to the public,” he told the Daily Mail.

“Traditionally they’ve done 12 or 13 games and we want a traditional tour. Our mid-week games against France, on winter’s nights when there was no other sport on, were an absolute smash.

“We’re already seeing a lot of competition for stadia from state governments. They’re acutely aware of what a Lions tour can deliver and what a great event it is. We’ve got high- quality stadiums everywhere. We’ll spread it around and it’ll be fantastic.

‘We’ve got a brand-new stadium up in Townsville, way north near the Great Barrier Reef. Our infrastructure is first-class.

“We could do about 100,000 at the MCG and I’ve got no doubt we could fill that for a Lions match. Sydney, Perth, you name it. It’s going to be a superb event.”

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Rugby Australia planning to include Fiji, Tonga in 2025 Lions tour

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