Why should Lions survive, asks former captain Finlay Calder

Finlay Calder, right, in action for the Lions against Australia. Picture: Billy Stickland /Allsport
Finlay Calder, right, in action for the Lions against Australia. Picture: Billy Stickland /Allsport
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Former captain Finlay Calder has cast doubt over the future of the British and Irish Lions as the demands of the professional club game take their toll.

A revamp of the English domestic calendar was announced last week which set aside just five weeks for the Lions’ tour of South Africa in the summer of 2021. The sense that the Lions are being squeezed out has led to leading figures in rugby such as Sir Ian McGeechan and Shane Williams to voice their fears for the composite side which tours every four years and draws on the best players from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales.

Calder, who captained the Lions to a Test series triumph in Australia in 1989, believes McGeechan is right to be concerned but points to the toll the Lions tours take on players, citing Sam Warburton as an example. The Welshman captained the Lions to a series draw with New Zealand in 2017 but announced his retirement earlier this year at 29.

“I think he’s [McGeechan] right,” Calder told Scotland on Sunday. “I don’t think anyone would dispute that. At the end of the day, it’s an overcrowded market and something has to give.

“Countries will do what is right for their own players, it’s as simple as that. Look at the last tour, someone like Warburton has never played again. The toll is huge. Something has to give and if it’s the Lions… well, why should they survive?”