The Lions have landed in New Zealand and on Saturday the talking will be over and the real tour starts.
Much has been made of the itinerary, the big stash that each player has picked up and Maro Itoje having to carry Bil around.
Nobody has focussed as yet on the incredible logistics required to organise a Lions tour and the work that none of the fans see that goes on behind the scenes.
This link will give you an idea of some of the stuff that is involved –
The players looked to be travelling fairly light when checking in at Heathrow, each carrying just a regular-sized backpack. Only lock Maro Itoge had extra carry-on baggage: a fluffy toy lion named BIL who apparently has his own passport. Of course, looks can be deceiving.
The Lions have a whopping 3900kg of baggage in total, roughly equating to 9731 rugby balls. Most of their equipment will have been shipped to New Zealand a couple of months ago.
The first thing that Manager John Spencer did on landing was to defend the tour schedule –
He was responding to the criticism from Steve Hansen yesterday who stated that the All Blacks would never have agreed to the schedule.
“The schedule is set by the New Zealand Rugby Union, and that’s a contractual thing and has been for many years,” said Spencer.
Bit of an idea here John – don’t sign stupid contracts – just a thought.
Ironically this article was also published today –
“We try to ensure we deliver against what they need, but also to make sure they don’t compromise our values, or ability to perform on the field. If we are not competitive on the field then the whole concept of the Lions is brought into question.”
Really? So arriving after a 24 hour flight with three days before the first game after less than a week with the whole squad helps them be competitive does it? Give me strength.
Meanwhile, for this year’s host nation, it is hoped the visit of the star-studded Lions squad will provide such a buzz of excitement it will help New Zealand Rugby (NZR) towards balancing its books, after reporting a loss of NZ$7.5m (£4m) for 2016.
A Lions tour is a financial bonanza for the host country. NZR had matchday revenues of NZ$9.2m in 2004, and NZ$11.2m in 2006, but in the Lions tour year of 2005 revenues were NZ$33.9m.
NZR has not specified how much the tour will generate, but expects demand to exceed that of the Lions’ last visit in 2005, when travelling fans contributed tens of millions towards the wider New Zealand economy.
So the British and Irish Lions are the biggest brand in world rugby?
Based on the financial benefit to the host unions and their economy and the many thousands of travelling fans that is hard to argue.
Armed with that fact, I think I could negotiate a better schedule and deal with the Southern Hemisphere unions than the one that is on offer this June.
Frankly, that stuffed Lion that Maro has to lug about could do a better job!