The rugby sports pages are currently dominated by new England coach Eddie Jones’s s potential choices for his first Six Nations squad. Fast forward 12 months and the journalistic chatter will centre around possible picks for the Lions squad to tour New Zealand in the summer of 2017.
World Cup winning New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has already stated his desire to stay on for the Lions tour. A number of his players have said they will back in New Zealand to meet the Lions after contracts overseas.
So what are the British rugby bodies doing to prepare for what everybody and his dog agrees will be a very tough tour. Perhaps it should be no surprise to learn that the chance of Lions success will be crucified because the players will only be released at the end of the European season when they will all have been battered to a pulp after a full domestic and international season. It seems no-one is prepared to move any part of the British or Irish season forward in order to give the Lions proper preparation.
As things currently stand, half the squad could easily be involved in domestic finals the weekend prior to the opening tour game If the Lions arrive in Auckland knackered even before they handle a ball it threatens to sour the whole glorious adventure.
I know rugby turns its nose up at any suggestion it might learn something from the running of the round ball game, but it is a fact that the European leagues have to finish a specified time before a major tournament such as a World Cup or European Championship. England still turn up knackered but that is the fault of their own league arrangements. Surely those who run world rugby could instigate a similar mandatory gap pre Lions tours.
And while we are having a go at the game’s administrators, it does not seem to have dawned on them that 2016 could be a key year for rugby union with the sport’s return to the Olympic fold in Rio. The seven-a side version may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it represents a massive opportunity to expand the sport’s worldwide appeal.
Yet the Great Britain squad appears to be entangled in the same red tape as the Lions. The leading Premiership and Pro12 players will be otherwise engaged until May and all the home unions have overseas tours in June. This sad affair focuses further attention on the club versus country tug-of-war which is still swirling around the sport, especially in England.