Rugby Union

Why Anzac-Lions fixture is an idea best left in the pub

Given the enthusiasm and speculative combined Wallabies-All Blacks combination squads currently being drawn up in anticipation for the proposed Anzac v British and Irish Lions game in 2025, it’s fair to say there is some appetite for it.

It’s certainly harmless fun wondering if Len Ikitau or Rieko Ioane, for example, would occupy the No.13 jersey, or whether Rob Valetini or Ardie Savea should play at No.9.

Then again, the Bledisloe Cup was designed to settle these sorts of squabbles and the cold, hard truth is that the likelihood of the best Wallabies and best All Blacks being available are next to zero.

And, if it’s not the best of the best to take on the Lions, the whole affair could degenerate into exhibition territory, which you might get away with in basketball but is wholly unsuited to rugby.

That’s not to say it won’t happen. At present, both Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby can both appear to be commercial entities with rugby bits attached.

If they think they could come up with a marketing strategy to fool just enough of the people for just enough of the time, they may be able to fill a stadium on the premise that it’s a genuine Anzac team, and brush off any criticism as they count the shared dollars.

Rob Valetini, Rieko Ioane, Eddie Jones, Len Ikitau and Ardie Savea.Credit:Getty

But, it wasn’t a genuine Anzac team in 1989 during the amateur era and it’s highly unlikely to be in 2025.

It just doesn’t make sense for the All Blacks to send their best players over to Australia during the July window for what would essentially be a meaningless match quickly rendered irrelevant by the real business at hand: the three Tests between the Wallabies and Lions

As has been documented, the All Blacks host France in 2025, and even though the French will likely get up to their usual tricks of not sending a full-strength squad, this will be a big series for New Zealand Rugby.

The All Blacks will be in their second year under a new coach, and they will be desperate to win that series having been well beaten by the Irish last year.

The travelling Lions’ supporter numbers will only be enhanced by the presence of former England coach Eddie Jones in the Wallaby dugout.Credit:Craig Golding

It is very hard to imagine Scott Robertson or Jamie Joseph — particularly the latter — signing off on a game that would expose half of his first-choice squad to injury a few weeks before the French arrive.

Eddie Jones might be more agreeable, given his understanding of the commercial challenges facing Rugby Australia, but even so he will have a burning desire to stick it up northern hemisphere rugby after the suits at Twickenham — nowhere to be seen after the French humiliation last weekend — turfed him out at the end of last year.

In fact, the Eddie versus the North narrative is another reason the tour doesn’t really need an artificial booster such as the Anzac game: it’s a strong enough tour as it is.

Jones should be negotiating a commission based on the number of Lions fans that travel to Australia — he’ll probably put a few thousands on plane seats with some well-chosen barbs over the next few years.

The Pacific Islands team v Lions idea? Now, that one has some merit, In fact, it meshes with one of the most important pieces of rugby news this week.

Moana Pasifika, along with the Fijian Drua, will compete in the New Zealand Super Rugby under-20s competition starting this weekend (Australian sides conspicuous by their absence) and Moana have revealed that 10 of the 27-strong squad will come from the islands — five from Tonga and five from Samoa.

That’s real progress — the first signs of a genuine pathway to the islands, and if this continues Moana Pasifika have a chance of being sustainable. They have already recruited Miracle Faiilagi from Samoa and the No.6 looks like a gun. If they get another 10 or so like him they will start to do what the Drua did to the Crusaders last weekend. So, a game against the Lions would be another carrot to get their players into their systems.

The Anzac idea, however, lacks the same purpose. We would all know what it is for, but that doesn’t make it meaningful.

Watch all the action from the Super Rugby Pacific with every match streaming ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport.

Most Viewed in Sport

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article