Gatland Plea For Help With British And Irish Lions Tour To South Africa


During an interview with Gavin Mairs of the UK Telegraph Warren Gatland has said that the Lions are prepared to be flexible on the scheduling of their tour to South Africa if requested to do so. However, he pleaded that Premiership Rugby reschedules their final in 2021. The Premierships, final is scheduled for 26 June 2021, just seven days before the Lions' first fixture against the Western Stormers in Cape Town.

"It has been a little bit frustrating with the Premiership not moving their final," Gatland said. "That may change with the reintroduction of the season. We will have to wait and see. The ideal situation would have been to have a full week together in the UK, play a warm-up game and get on the plane the following day and head to South Africa.

"I don't think to assemble a squad for two weeks before you play your first game in South Africa is too much of an unreasonable request. Last time, in New Zealand, we left on the Monday, had two days' travel and arrived on the Wednesday. The players were jet-lagged and had to play the first game on the Saturday. I did point that out to the powers-that-be and the Lions and said we were potentially opening ourselves up [to legal action]. I said if a player got a career-ending injury in the first game, I think he had potentially got a legitimate claim to say that the preparation wasn't adequate or he didn't have enough time from arriving in New Zealand before he was made to play his first game."

"Those are things we have got to be careful about. Everyone talks about player welfare, and it is one of the criteria in looking at seasons and planning and preparation. We have got to deliver that."

"The Pro14 did it and I wasn't quite sure why the Premiership wasn't prepared to do the same," he added. "I am not sure why there doesn't seem to be the appetite to be really positive and try to work together in terms of helping the Lions."

"If the players go away on the Lions and win a series, it creates so much interest from new supporters who probably don't follow clubs. You have got this potential to create superstars as household names and legends. To me, if that happens to a club, you can use that and promote that and it benefits everyone. I would like to see a little bit more cooperation but that is something we are continually battling with and I will keep banging away."