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Combined Pacific Islanders side may play Lions during Australia tour

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Combined Pacific Islanders side may play Lions during Australia tour Empty Combined Pacific Islanders side may play Lions during Australia tour

Post by Rugby Fan Sat 11 Mar 2023, 11:17 am

In the Sydney Morning Herald:

The best players from Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Papua New Guinea will play a midweek game against the British and Irish Lions under a plan for the legendary side’s 2025 Australia tour.

The Lions, who tour Australia every 12 years, will play the combined Pacific islands team as well as an Anzac XV, featuring All Blacks and Wallabies, and one game each against three Australian Super teams: the Waratahs, Reds and Brumbies.

The proposal is still being negotiated between the Lions, New Zealand Rugby and Oceania Rugby, but the fixture list needs to be finalised within the next two months so Rugby Australia can start ticket sales.

NZR is open to a combined Anzac team playing the Lions as a warm-up, but wants more details. The All Blacks will host world No.2 side France in a three-Test series at the same time, so player availability will need to be negotiated.

The tour will feature three Tests between the Wallabies and the combined Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England team, plus five or six games that will serve as warm-ups or midweek clashes for the touring side. Ireland coach Andy Farrell is the front runner to coach the group.

The 2001 tour pitted the Lions against a combination of Super Rugby sides, an Australia A line-up and other representative teams. On the 2013 tour, the tourists took on the five Super teams.

Australian officials are keen to avoid the blowout scores some of those fixtures produced and think the Anzac and Pacific matches could attract big crowds.

RA chairman Hamish McLennan is also considering opening a spot on the Pacific squad list to an NRL player. “If they make the cut,” McLennan told the Herald.

Meanwhile, Queensland Rugby Union is worried Brisbane will miss out to Adelaide or Perth for the remaining Test match because of aggressive bidding from the South Australia and Western Australia governments.

Sydney and Melbourne have locked in Lions Tests under long-term funding agreements with their state governments, but there is a growing acknowledgment that Adelaide Oval or Optus Stadium are the front runners for the other Test.

South Australia Premier Peter Malinauskas has gone hard after major sporting events to boost tourism, with LIV Golf and Supercars headed there this year after the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship win over South Africa attracted a good crowd of 36,000 in 2022.

Sources close to negotiations told the Herald that WA and SA had tabled aggressive bids to win hosting rights to the fixture.

However, QRU boss David Hanham said Brisbane was the game’s natural home.

“You want to go to your markets where you know you’re going to get a good turnout, and you’re going to get people embracing it,” he said. “Rugby in Queensland is strong; we’re 140 years old, we’ve never missed out on a Lions series and we don’t want to miss out now. I believe it’s important for them to consider all that.

“The Lions for us is critical. Outside of a Rugby World Cup, it’s the biggest rugby sporting event in the world. It brings 40,000 passionate Lions fans to Australia and was evidenced [in 2001] when they played here and filled the Gabba in red, and shocked the Wallabies.

“My conversations with the Queensland government is they don’t want to be out of the race, they want to win this event. They know how important it is for the economy, for tourism and for rugby.”

A Queensland government spokesperson said Suncorp Stadium’s outstanding record of Wallabies wins should be a key consideration for rugby’s, “Sydney-based decision makers”.

“Queensland is a true, genuine rugby state, and we’re not in the habit of broadcasting to our competitors the content we intend to secure for the nation’s leading visitor economy,” the spokesperson said.

RA has indicated it will take games to non-traditional markets when state governments are willing to pay top dollar. Sydney is in danger of missing out to Melbourne for the 2027 World Cup final.

Stadium and tourism sources indicated Rugby Australia and the NSW government were close to signing an agreement that would result in Sydney hosting a Bledisloe Cup Test in 2024 and every second year after that.

But Accor Stadium, the site of the 2003 World Cup final, 2014 Super Rugby final and Australia’s last Bledisloe Cup win, faces an uphill battle to secure the 2027 tournament decider.

World Rugby and RA will run a bid process to lock in fixtures before announcing all venues at the end of this year’s World Cup in France.

Perth, Sydney and Melbourne are the only cities with stadiums big enough to host a final, with Victoria’s backers determined to stage the event.

Sources close to the negotiations told the Herald that Victorian officials had promised to beat whatever financial offer a rival state might make and deliver a record crowd for a World Cup fixture.

The record is 89,267 for a pool match between Ireland and Romania at Wembley Stadium during the 2015 tournament. Only the MCG (100,000 capacity), Australia’s largest stadium, is capable of beating that benchmark.

An attendance high was also part of Australia’s pitch to win hosting rights in 2021, guaranteeing the MCG will be used for prominent fixtures and knockout rounds.

Sydney’s backers fear a sold-out MCG for this year’s Bledisloe Cup Test would be the writing on the wall for the 2027 final.

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Combined Pacific Islanders side may play Lions during Australia tour Empty Re: Combined Pacific Islanders side may play Lions during Australia tour

Post by doctor_grey Wed 15 Mar 2023, 3:38 am

This would be pretty cool.


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