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Should We Even Care About The Lions Anymore?

Should We Even Care About The Lions Anymore?
By Conor O'Leary Updated

Gerry Thornley had a dramatic suggestion in the Irish Times earlier today - scrapping the British & Irish Lions. In a game that is constantly reminding everyone about it's traditions and amateur ethos - the concept of the Lions is the oldest and most amateur of traditions.

There's a lot to like about the Lions - and every year people love it. For the players, it's a chance to play with the best from the rest of the home nations, going on tour and bonding like the amateur days. For the fans, it's a chance to see a real life fantasy game - and the players really really want to win unlike the Barbarian exhibitions. It's a massive hit from a sponsor point of view, and that's why Thornley's suggestion to scrap the idea will never happen.

But should we care about the Lions at all? Sports fans are in love with fantasy sports, and discussing their own team selections in pubs up and down the country. But do we actually want to see these fantasy teams play?

Brian O'Driscoll's omission from the Lions test team two years ago revealed one thing - fans care more about having their favourites in the team than actually cheering them on in the game.

A fans main allegiance will always be to their national team, and as Thornley points out - the Lions hinders our international prospects. So perhaps now - while fans realise that the love for the Lions is all fantasy related - is why the tours should be scrapped. You can still select the Lions squad every year - but make it like the All Stars in GAA, or teams of the tournament. We don't ever want to see these teams play. We just want our favourite players featured.

That's not to say that there aren't some positive to actually going on the Lions tour. There's an argument that the 2001 Lions tour prompted the start of Ireland's golden generation. Shane Horgan tells of the difference in Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara after they went on that tour, and that marked the real start of professionalism in Irish rugby. Even looking at the last Lions tour in 2013 - Conor Murray came back a significantly better player for the experience in Australia, and it will give young talented players that boost.

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The benefits it could have in 2017 for the likes of Robbie Henshaw, or Garry Ringrose is huge. It's the Johnny Sextons and the Conor Murrays that most apply to Thornley's argument.

Why not make the Lions squad an under 25 squad only?

That way the young stars of the home nations get the benefits of playing at a higher level, and the senior members of the squad don't get destroyed physically and psychologically every four years.

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Will it happen? Of course not. No one would be happy with that. Not the home nations, not the Tri Nations, not the players, or the sponsors.

But would it be the best for northern hemisphere rugby?

See Also: Gerry Thornley Has An Interesting Idea To Improve Home Nations' Chances At World Cups

See Also: Ireland Legend David Wallace Has An Alternative Idea To Fix Irish Rugby

Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

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