Talks are currently underway between Lions officials and representatives from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to confirm the organisation of the next three Lions tours – South Africa 2021, Australia 2025 and New Zealand 2029.
With regards to the upcoming tour in South Africa, Paul Rees of The Guardian is reporting that the number of matches to be played will be eight, a reduction in two games from the 10 which were played in New Zealand during the summer.
This move will be welcomed by the Premiership clubs, who have been pushing for a reduction in the length of tours or a reduction in the number of games in order to reduce the load on their top players.
It is reported that the decision has been made due to the strength of the game which currently exists in South Africa. The Lions are conscious that South Africa would struggle to field seven teams of adequate strength to play the Lions, outside of the Test matches against the Springboks.
The same thinking is also being applied to the tour of Australia in 2025 but that decision won’t be made until sometime in the future due to the cyclical nature of the strength of rugby nations.
“Each tour will be looked at on its merits,” one administrator said. “We will be keeping an open mind. A shorter tour means longer preparation time and clearly had the Lions been in South Africa this year, it is unlikely that there would have been the 10 meaningful fixtures that there were in New Zealand where the strength of the warm-up teams meant the Lions went into the Test series battle-hardened.”
This is a win of sorts for the Premiership clubs, who last week lost their battle to reduce the Six Nations to a six-week tournament.