Lions dates confirm problems with date clashes

The much awaited British and Irish Lions tour fixtures were released earlier today and the schedule sees the Lions playing in seven cities with four midweek fixtures and six Saturday games.

The problem with the fixtures is that the tour kicks off against a Highveld XV in Rustenburg on May 30, 2009 – the same weekend that the Heineken Cup final and/or Guinness Premiership final is scheduled to take place at Twickenham. (dates not confirmed yet)

An additional concern for English based players is the five-day gap which under the new agreement Premiership players must take between games.

The Lions’ schedule includes three midweek games in the first three weeks, making the observance of that condition almost impossible.

What this means is that the Lions would head for South Africa with an incomplete squad and any English players who don’t appear in the finals would be prevented from playing in both of the first two matches on the tour.

The Chief executive of the Lions John Feehan acknowledged the difficulties but refused to discuss them before the fixtures were released.

He said: “We’re talking to all the relevant parties and we’ve no other comment to make.”

Discussion are said to be taking place to switch the final’s dates but with such a congested calendar it could prove impossible.

With regards to the Premiership players taking the five day gap Damian Hopley, chief executive of the Players’ Association said,”The Lions tour does throw up a problem around that specific clause,”

“We don’t want to restrict players’ ambition but we do want to promote their welfare. It’s a really difficult one.”

The end result is that the Lions tour could end up a lot like England’s tour to South Africa last year which saw third string English players participating.   

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