Call for Lions to follow ABs to Pacific Islands

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 11:59 21/07/2014
Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll holds the cup after his team defeated France at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, near Paris, to win the Six Nations Championship.
Reuters
BRIAN O'DRISCOLL: The great Irish centre believes the British and Irish Lions should play a test in the Pacific Islands.

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The British & Irish Lions are under pressure to follow the All Blacks' lead and play a test in the Pacific Islands on the way to New Zealand for their 2017 tour.

After much public debate, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi has confirmed the All Blacks will play there in a World Cup warmup match on July 8 next year.

It's a coup for the islands and a significant change of stance for the New Zealand Rugby Union who are dropping huge commercial gains they receive in places like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Chicago for these one-off matches to make a long-awaited appearance in cash-strapped Samoa.

Now the Lions, who used Hong Kong for a game en route to Australia on last year's tour, are being urged to follow suite by one of their true greats, Irish centre Brian O'Driscoll.

''It is probably more of a give than a take for the Lions [to play in the Pacific Islands] but it would be great for the people there and it would probably take away from that commercial feel that the Lions are this commercial juggernaut,'' O'Driscoll told The Times.

''It might be a clever move from the Lions' point of view to play a game down there.''

The Lions have played in the islands before, with Phil Bennett's 1977 side famously losing 25-21 to Fiji in Suva in a test played after they had lost the series 3-1 to the All Blacks in New Zealand.

William Glenwright, the IRB's general manager for Oceania, plans to try to twist the arm of the giant Lions machine to get to the islands for a game in 2017.

''It would be magic,'' Glenwright told the Times.

''Rugby is so important to the fabric of the three Pacific Island nations and the strength of the brands of teams like the All Blacks, the Wallabies and the Lions is so strong that to have those countries touring the Pacific Islands sends a message that they matter, that they are an important part of world rugby - and they are.

''It is difficult to persuade them to do it when there is no money for them, so you have to find another angle.

''The argument I'll be using is that a match against a Pacific Island in the Pacific Islands won't tick the finance box but it will tick the high performance box.

''It would be great to have that meeting and even just look at the possibility of it [the Lions in the Pacific Islands]. It would send a really good message.''

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