Twenty or so years ago I thought that the ever more intense demands of the professional game would kill off two of rugby’s most popular institutions – the British and Irish Lions and the great guest club, the Barbarians. It hasn’t quite done so, but both are now being squeezed very hard.There was always a case in simple rugby terms against the Lions . Yes, of course, the tours aroused great interest and there were some marvellous Test matches. But wasn’t it a bit absurd that four nations had to come together to play one whether that was South Africa, New Zealand or Australia? Looked at one way, didn’t it hint at a northern inferiority complex? Surely England or Wales could win Test matches, even Test series, against the southern hemisphere countries on their own? After all, France did…occasionally anyway.
The Lions concept made sense back in the day, when tours lasted for months (even after it was no longer necessary to travel to New Zealand by ship).