B&I Lions could face Japan
NEWS: Coach Warren Gatland has revealed the British and Irish Lions are weighing up three potential opponents for a warm-up game before 2021’s tour to South Africa.
Gatland is currently in his first season of a four-year stint with Super Rugby’s Chiefs but he will take time off in 2021 to lead the Lions on an historic third tour.
Following the Chiefs’ win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday, Gatland told Kyodo News that the Lions were weighing up their options for warm-up opposition and considering the likes of the Barbarians, the Maori All Blacks and the Japan national side.
“The Lions are planning a warm-up game somewhere in the UK in either London, Wales or Edinburgh,” Gatland revealed.
“There are two or three parties we are talking to, the Barbarians, New Zealand Maori and Japan. So yes, Japan is potentially an option.”
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— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) February 15, 2020
Japan took the world by storm when they bested both Ireland and Scotland at the 2019 World Cup and progressed through to the quarterfinals. Their feats at the global tournament have seen national unions clamouring to line up a match with rugby’s new darlings.
In 2020, Japan have Test matches scheduled against Wales, England (twice), New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and the Barbarians.
In contrast, the Brave Blossoms played just four Tests against tier-one opposition in 2016, the year after the last World Cup.
The Barbarians and the Maori All Blacks both have rich histories with the Lions.
The Maori All Blacks last played the Lions when the composite side travelled to New Zealand in 2017 with the visitors comfortably dispatching the locals, 32-10.
Twelve years earlier, the New Zealand Maori recorded an historic 19-13 victory over the Lions.
The two sides have met nine times in total.
The Barbarians, meanwhile, have regularly featured in the Lions’ tours as warm-up opposition, with their last match coming in 2013 before the Lions travelled to Australia.
The likes of Nick Evans, Joe Rokocoko, Schalk Brits, Sergio Parisse and Jim Hamilton all featured for the Barbarians in a 59-8 thrashing.