B&I Lions will be back insists New Zealand boss
REACTION: New Zealand rugby boss Steve Tew believes future tours by the British and Irish Lions may be trimmed, but he is adamant they must continue and not be scrapped.
Tew joined the growing debate on the value of Lions tours, telling Newstalk ZB that planning was already underway for the next 12-yearly tour of New Zealand in 2029.
But, speaking ahead of Saturday's second Test between the Lions and All Blacks in Wellington, Tew suggested future tours, which rotate every four years between New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, may be reduced from 10 to eight games.
"We negotiated a new 12-year international calendar with Lions tours factored into that calendar. I'm confident that we'll see the Lions back here in the normal schedule that we've got going," Tew said.
"I think it's reasonable to expect that we probably won't see a 10-game tour again, the calendar is just too full. We have a strong view of what the minimum [number of games] looks like, and that is around eight."
There has been increasing speculation, fuelled by a reluctance of British clubs to release players, that the 129-year-old tradition of sending a combined British and Irish side to New Zealand, Australia or South Africa could be doomed.
But Tew said lessons had been learned from the current New Zealand tour, particularly the need for the Lions to have a longer preparation.
After waiting for the full squad to be assembled at the end of the club season, the Lions had only three days to get over travel fatigue before playing their first game in New Zealand.
Tew said that was an issue for the Lions, and not New Zealand, to address.
"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," said Tew.
Rival Lions and All Blacks captains, Sam Warburton and Kieran Read, have also given strong endorsement for continuing the tours.
Warburton said Friday he would be "gutted, devastated" if the Lions tradition came to an end and described the four-yearly tours as "the absolute pinnacle of my career."
The Lions have won only one of 11 previous New Zealand tours and again find themselves on the brink of defeat after losing the first of three Tests 15-30 in Auckland last week.
The World Rugby schedule has the Lions next touring South Africa in 2021, then Australia in 2025 before returning to New Zealand in 2029.