The British & Irish Lions have crossed hemispheres for more than a century, but should they consider also touring closer to home? Read this debate from our June 2021 issue
Face-off: Should the Lions tour France?
YES, says the former France hooker turned media pundit
The British & Irish Lions is an institution. And we adore it. We tour for the adventure, for the thrill, for the quality of rugby, yes – but also for the amazing fan experience and being confronted by the best. If you want to package an amazing destination, regional pride, a lot of cultural diversity and, at the moment, quality rugby, that’s France.
France would create something exciting while still fitting the Lions’ tradition – challenging yourself against the best in a country that will give you a lot of stuff to do during the week.
When we were discussing alternative Lions plans in Australia or at home this year, which isn’t going to happen now, they were expecting the Lions to play a France team during the week and I thought, ‘That is exactly what world rugby needs at the moment!’ It’s exciting, new, fresh… Every single fan in the world would turn their TV on for that. The Lions in France would create such an event. I think it could be absolutely extraordinary.
France bring something different to the table. The Six Nations needs that specialness because Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England are not as different – they are still Anglo-Saxons. So imagine if then you can combine all those Six Nations countries into this institution with a Lions tour to France.
We love to hate each other and we hate to love each other. If you want to create entertainment, quality rugby and history, I think it must happen. France deserves it now. I hope it will happen one day, even if it’s just one Test.
NO, says the South Africa-based freelance rugby writer
A British & Irish Lions tour to France would not be as meaningful as the existing sojourns to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It’s the rarity of the tours – once every 12 years – that make them so special.
A top player from the home unions may enjoy two or three opportunities to tour with the British & Irish Lions. Elite players down south rarely get more than one shot at facing the fabled side from the North. The locals’ desperation to succeed against rugby’s most famous tourists makes for a potent product.
Related content: The day France played the Lions
Surely that product would be diluted if the Lions toured France? The home unions play France each year in the Six Nations. Their players face French clubs in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup. A tour to France, in the colours of the Lions, would be overkill.
And what would be the cost to other nations? Would France displace a traditional tour to Australia, New Zealand or South Africa – rugby nations less financially secure than their northern hemisphere counterparts?
South Africa, for example, have been counting on a big cash injection from the Lions tour. Without a Lions tour in the future, they would lose millions. This would impact on their future planning and structures. Player retention, already a major issue, would be impossible.
The Lions would do well to consider staging fixtures against Fiji, Samoa and Tonga ahead of a series in Australia or New Zealand. That would boost the island nations in so many ways and provide great preparation for the tourists.
Face-off: Should the Lions tour France? We want to know what YOU think. Email your views to rugbyworldletters@futurenet
This debate first appeared in the June 2021 issue of Rugby World.