NZ Rugby boss says Lions tours will continue

BY AP • June 30, 2017

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew is confident British and Irish Lions tours will continue but says they will likely be shorter in future.

There has been speculation that with an increasingly congested international calendar and the reluctance of British clubs to release players to the Lions, the current tour to New Zealand might be among the last for the team which unites players from four nations.

But Tew told New Zealand media Saturday that Lions tours would continue according to a World Rugby schedule which has them touring South Africa in 2021, Australia in 2025 and New Zealand in 2029.

''We negotiated a new 12-year international calendar with Lions tours factored into that calendar,'' Tew said. ''I'm confident that we'll see the Lions back here in the normal schedule that we've got going.''

Tew said the Lions' current 10-match tour might be the last of that length, because the international calendar would not allow for it.

''I think it's reasonable to expect that we probably won't see a 10 game-tour again, the calendar is just too full,'' he said. ''We have a strong view of what the minimum looks like and that is around eight.''

Tew said lessons had been learned from the current tour, which allowed the Lions only three days to prepare for their opening match against the Provincial Barbarians. But he stressed the Lions had sought an itinerary which included matches against all five of New Zealand's Super Rugby teams.

''There are obviously things that need to be considered going into the next series of Lions tours,'' he said. ''They need a longer preparation clearly than they had this year.

''They could have done that themselves, they could easily have brought the majority of the squad over to play the Barbarians game and just left the guys playing the club finals behind, and join later.''

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