British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has floated the notion of settling the 2017 drawn Test series with the All Blacks prior to next year’s trip to South Africa. With rugby currently in lockdown due to the coronavirus, a blank canvas has presented itself to the sport with a view to dreaming up new ideas.
Already this week there has been a Club World Cup as well as the possibility of hosting a second 2020 Six Nations due to the potential cancellation of the November internationals which feature the touring southern hemisphere countries in Europe.
Now, Lions boss Gatland has waded into the situation by suggesting an intriguing match-up – potentially at Twickenham – prior to their departure for South Africa next June.
The Lions and the All Blacks played out a drawn three-Test series in 2017 and are not due to meet again until 2029. However, with the global rugby calendar up in the air and Gatland believing his squad will need an extra match before embarking on their shortened tour, he believes the climate is ripe for a reprise of the Lions-All Blacks rivalry which ended in deadlock three years ago in Auckland.
Currently the coach of the Super Rugby Chiefs following twelve years at the helm with Wales, Gatland was a guest on Sky Sport NZ’s The Breakdown programme where he unveiled his groundbreaking idea.
“I’ve spoken to Mark Robinson about a warm-up game for the Lions and he was potentially talking about the New Zealand Maoris,” he said.
“But is it something that the All Blacks go up there for? A decider before we go off to South Africa at the end of June next year.
“Potentially it’s an opportunity to make £4million or £5million from a game like that and put some money back into the coffers that we’re going to need.”
Japan and the Barbarians have also been considered as potential opponents for the Lions prior to their tour, but the possibility of facing the All Blacks would be a fascinating alternative if the fixture were to happen.
Twickenham is due to host the 2020/21 final of the Gallagher Premiership on June 26 next year, but Sunday at RFU HQ or the use of the Principality Stadium could come into the equation for the Lions’ send-off.
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