x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

British & Irish Lions tour should have no time for part-timers

Is there any place for a Lions fixture against a side of semi-professionals in this day and age? Probably not, writes Paul Radley.

Stuart Hogg, centre, and his British & Irish Lions teammates were hardly tested by the combined New South Wales and Queensland Country XV.
Stuart Hogg, centre, and his British & Irish Lions teammates were hardly tested by the combined New South Wales and Queensland Country XV.

It is an indictment of the British & Irish Lions tour schedule that the visiting team actually regressed because of their most recent fixture.

The Lions looked a surprisingly well-oiled machine in their opening games against Super Rugby opposition, but their standards slipped against the Combined New South Wales and Queensland Country XV.

Did they stoop to their opposition's level? It sounds like a harsh criticism, but it was probably the case.

The northern hemisphere's leading players were up against electricians, carpenters and students. They did not need to be anywhere near their best to triumph. As a result, they were not.

Is there any place for a Lions fixture against a side of semi-professionals in this day and age? Probably not.

Almost everyone concerned would be better off with a match against a Test-starved Pacific nation, like Fiji or Samoa. That would definitely raise the standard of competition on an Australian tour in future.

That said, the narrative would be poorer for it. A little like when the part-time players of the UAE were ditched from the IRB competition at their own Dubai Sevens, the stories the players have to tell are diminished or lost altogether.

Take Lewis Catt, the Combined Country centre, for example.

"It's what dreams are made of," he said of facing the Lions' Brian O'Driscoll, a day before he had to return to his day job as an electrical engineer. "He's a superstar, there is no other word for it."

 

pradley@thenational.ae

 

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