Lions Down Under: The latest option on the table
Assembling a combined Wallabies and France side to face the British and Irish Lions is a left-field idea on the table as part of Rugby Australia’s offer to host their series against South Africa later this year.
The Lions’ three-Test tour of South Africa is in doubt because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with games in front of empty stadiums or a late shift to the UK alternative options.
However, RA Chairman Hamish McLennan has extended an invitation to South African Rugby Chief Executive Jurie Roux to play in Australia, hot on the heels of the Wallabies’ July series against the French.
One or two of the Tests would be played in Perth, McLennan said, due to the strong expat community and favourable time zones, with another on the east coast.
Under McLennan’s plan the world champion Springboks and the Lions would share revenue from the three-Test series and Australia would only take enough to cover costs.
Australian Super Rugby teams might also play the Lions in matches outside the Tests.
It’s unlikely the Wallabies would play a Test against either tourist, but McLennan said they were prepared to get creative in what would be a terrific opportunity to keep eyeballs on the sport and the nation as a safe haven for international sport during the pandemic.
“There will need to be a few warm-up games and the latest idea is to form a Wallabies-France Barbarians team for the Lions to play,” he told AAP.
“We just want to keep building interest and (hosting the tour) would be great for the game and something like a Barbarians game would be quite popular.
“The ball is in South Africa’s court, but a decision would need to be made within a month.
“I just said [to Roux] that if it becomes impossible to host it [in South Africa] we’d be interested,” McLennan said.
“We hosted the Rugby Championship, which became the Tri-Nations and ended up being a fantastic tournament so we’ve proved it’s possible.”