Stephen Jones: 'This will be the last Lions tour to NZ'

Author
NZME staff,
Publish Date
Fri, 30 Jun 2017, 7:38AM
(Getty Images).

Stephen Jones: 'This will be the last Lions tour to NZ'

Author
NZME staff,
Publish Date
Fri, 30 Jun 2017, 7:38AM

British rugby writer Stephen Jones predicts this will be the last British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

The controversial writer for the Times, who has a knack of rubbing New Zealand rugby fans the wrong way, told Rachel Smalley he doesn't think the Lions will return in 2029.

"This will be the last time that you'll see the Lions," he said.

"The next tour will be in 12 years' time and I don't think it will happen.

"The Lions have been crushed. They've been beaten by New Zealand on the field as yet - but let's be fair there's still two tests to go.

"But they are smashed to bits by rugby itself because they won't give the Lions any type of preparation. The Lions played a game within 72 hours of arriving here at the end of a savage season at home. That's nonsense," Jones said.

"It's the player welfare aspect that is nonsense. Neither the New Zealand hosts or the organisers in the UK of all the other competitions will give the Lions any proper preparation time and in this day and age it's just not good enough. So I think this will be the last Lions tour."

LISTEN ABOVE TO STEPHEN JONES SPEAKING TO RACHEL SMALLEY

The current Lions tour includes 10 games in New Zealand with matches against all five Super Rugby franchises, New Zealand Maori, the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians and three tests against the All Blacks.

New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew told the Guardian newspaper recently that the current contract between the Lions and Sanzaar runs out after this tour to New Zealand and needs to be renegotiated.

Tew said the tour was "unique and something that's worth preserving" and "the commitment from all of us is that the Lions are locked into the calendar".

The Lions are meant to tour South Africa in four years with talks already of a schedule reduction to seven or eight games.

Jones told Rachel Smalley that there was plenty of incentive for New Zealand to host the Lions.

"The revenue is a huge motivating factor for New Zealand. On the last tour, I saw an official report that said they made $99 million for your economy. It also made a massive amount for the New Zealand Rugby Union and without it, I don't think they would continue to survive let alone make a profit or prosper.

"The revenue is all one-way. The rugby unions at home get $1 million each while New Zealand Rugby will get 20 times that. It's so inequitable, so ridiculous from so many points of view. The Lions are magnificent - there's probably 25,000 Lions fans down here but there won't be another Lions tour unless New Zealand and the home authorities give them a chance to prepare properly."

Jones isn't too confident of Warren Gatland's side squaring the test series in Wellington tomorrow after losing the first test 30-15 at Eden Park.

Gatland made three changes to his starting side for the second test with Ireland's Jonny Sexton starting at first-first and English number 10 Owen Farrell moving to second-five eighth. Jones said he didn't agree with the changes.

"The Lions controversial selections have rather put me off," he told Smalley.

"We all thought they'd pick the biggest, nastiest, naughtiest team they could and take it to the New Zealanders and it appears now that they're going to take New Zealand on at their own game. When you do that you're going to lose. At their own game - New Zealand are really, really good."

Jones is often much maligned in New Zealand for his controversial thoughts on the All Blacks. He joked that he's been wearing a disguise since arriving in the country and hasn't been noticed.

"I've been in disguise actually. I've grown a fake beard and going around in a dress so no one knows it's me. And so far it's worked really well."

He said New Zealand's rugby obsession "is ridiculous" and had a pop at the nation's inability to understand irony.

"It's far wider than that actually. What I've done it put up a mirror against the complete lack of a sense of irony that New Zealanders have and their complete failure to note when someone is trying to wind them up. They're almost as good at not getting irony as they are at rugby.

"Worse than America. In America now and again they see the joke but New Zealanders don't.

"It's rugby that defines you and I think that's a really bad thing. There's a million other things to life than rugby but in New Zealand the obsession is ridiculous."