Lions will suffer in South Africa unless Premiership final moved – Gatland | Sport


England stars will be at risk of missing out on a place in the 2021 British & Irish Lions Test side in South Africa if Premiership Rugby refuses to move its final to give the touring squad an extra week’s preparation, Warren Gatland has warned.

The 2020-21 Premiership final is scheduled for 26 June, only a week before the Lions’ first match. Gatland bemoaned a similar situation two years ago in New Zealand but, with the South Africa tour even more condensed – eight matches over five weeks rather than 10 over six – the Lions have even less time to prepare for the Test series.

The Pro14 has pledged to move its final but, while the Lions are in discussions with Premiership Rugby Limited (PRL), no agreement has been reached. Gatland remains hopeful but conceded that if, for example, Saracens reached the Premiership final, players such as Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and the Vunipola brothers would be playing catch-up when it comes to selection in his team. Gatland acknowledged he may even have decided his Test squad before flying to South Africa.

The Lions head coach said: “The hardest thing is how they recover from that final, because the first game is maybe the following week. So that gives limited preparation time. How many could be involved – maybe eight to 10, maybe less – and let’s be honest about it, that is a disadvantage. You are coming to the squad where guys have already been together for a week and will be ready to play in that first game. There’s no doubt there will be some disadvantage if the [final] is on that date and they only come together pretty late.”

PRL ruled out rescheduling its final as recently as last October but, if it succeeds in pushing through plans for a 13-team Premiership from the 2020-21 season, with a relegation/promotion play-off involving the winners of the Championship thereafter, the Rugby Football Union’s new chief executive, Bill Sweeney, believes that may change. “I can fully understand where [Warren] is coming from,” he said. “It comes down to having a conversation round the table and how feasible is it to move that final. That ties into the conversation about the play-off system between the Premiership and the Championship.”

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Plans for an expanded Premiership are far from finalised, however. It is understood an offer of compensation to the Championship clubs has been unanimously rejected and the proposal was not put to a vote at the RFU council meeting on Friday, as was expected. Instead, a decision is due by September.

It is understood the Championship clubs were offered a paltry increase in funding of around £20,000 per club – a proposal described by one source as “awful”. It is believed most of the Championship clubs would accept the proposed restructure but in return for a far better financial package as well as a new cup competition between the two leagues and compensation if their players move to Premiership clubs.

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Source link : https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/jun/15/lions-suffer-south-africa-premiership-final-warren-gatland

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Publish date : 2019-06-15 21:00:00

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