Call for Six Nations to be condensed to help Lions

Nigel Melville has called on the Six Nations to condense by one week once every four years to safeguard the future of the British and Irish Lions.

The Lions drew the Test series with New Zealand in 2017. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images

Melville, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) interim chief executive, has proposed his preferred solution ahead of the Lions’ 2021 tour of South Africa.

The Gallagher Premiership’s reshaped future seasons put the English club league’s 2021 play-off final on 26 June, just a week before the Lions’ opening tour match in South Africa.

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Pro14 bosses have already agreed that they could reschedule their final once every four years, though Premiership chiefs have held onto their scheduled date – leaving stand-in RFU boss Melville putting forward another solution.

“Take timetables, my view is you can solve that problem,” said Melville. “They [the Lions] need an extra week. If every four years we move the Six Nations from seven to six weeks, you create that extra week.

“So every four years why don’t we do that?”

The Lions’ 2021 tour has already been cut from six to five weeks and ten to eight matches, as part of global calendar reshaping agreed in San Francisco in January 2017.

The 2021 Premiership final has raised fears England players involved could simply be overlooked for Lions selection, given their lack of preparation time.

Asked if condensing the Six Nations would threaten player welfare, Melville replied: “No, because that week wouldn’t have a game. It would be better preparation for the Lions so they have that week off, as in preparing. So you’re saving a week here and putting it there.

“The Lions is incredibly important for rugby. Is it worth fighting for? Of course it is.”