Almost a year after Hamish McLennan pitched the idea of rebooting the Anzac concept against the British and Irish Lions for their highly anticipated series in 2025, Rugby Australia looks set to get their wish as the tour dates were confirmed on Wednesday.
But the concept could still develop further to include involvement from long-time ally South Africa, The Roar understands.
Meanwhile the much-talked-about Super Rugby commission is gathering pace following meetings on Tuesday between Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby, as is RA’s private equity bid.
The governing body announced all the fixtures for the 2025 Lions tour on Wednesday, including three Tests as well as an exhibition match featuring an Anzac XV in Adelaide.
As was the case in 2013, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney are set to host the three-Test series. All five Super Rugby franchises are set to meet the Lions in a move that will ease political tensions across the national landscape.
Confirmed Lions dates and venues. Times TBC.
|Sat, Jun 28||Lions vs Western Force||Optus Stadium Perth||TBC|
|Wed, Jul 2||Lions vs Queensland Reds||Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane||TBC|
|Sat, Jul 5||Lions vs NSW Waratahs||Allianz Stadium, Sydney||TBC|
|Wed, Jul 9||Lions vs ACT Brumbies||GIO Stadium, Canberra||TBC|
|Sat, Jul 12||Lions vs Invitation XV||Adelaide Oval||TBC|
|Tues, Jul 22||Lions vs Melbourne Rebels||Marvel Stadium, Melbourne||TBC|
|Sat, Jul 19||Lions vs Wallabies 1st Test||Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane||TBC|
|Sat, Jul 26||Lions vs Wallabies 2nd Test||MCG, Melbourne||TBC|
|Sat, Aug 2||Lions vs Wallabies 3rd Test||Accor Stadium, Sydney||TBC|
The Roar understands the NZR have supported the Anzac concept but won’t risk players of national interest playing in the unofficial Test given they will host France at the same time the Lions are touring Australia.
Instead, it’s understood, they will support overseas-based New Zealand stars like Richie Mo’unga, who has signed a lucrative three-year deal in Japan, and those not in the frame to wear the All Blacks jersey to feature in the match.
It’s a nice middle ground struck by the respective national unions, particularly given the immense talent leaving the Shaky Isles and heading overseas to Japan.
All Blacks stars like Leicester Fainga’anuku and Sam Whitelock will head to France following the Rugby World Cup, while Shannon Frizell and Aaron Smith will also head to Japan at year’s end.
While the Anzac concept hasn’t been played out since the British and Irish Lions beat them in 1989 at Ballymore, the match could still evolve to include involvement from South Africa. That would bring together the former Sanzaar Unions, who previously competed for the Tri Nations.
It’s not the only breaking of bread between the two unions either.
It’s understood new Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh was in New Zealand to start the week, where plenty of ground was covered.
The Super Rugby Pacific commissioner doesn’t yet have a figurehead, but both governing bodies agree it’s imperative to have someone in place, even if it is an interim, by the end of winter.
But the innovative idea of a Super Rugby draft won’t be rushed in, with other matters considered more important for the time being.
How RA gets its players on the field more remains of high importance too, with the governing body acknowledging that New Zealand players on average play double the number of games than its own.
Although it won’t come into fruition this year, RA is looking at introducing an eight-week cross-over competition involving the Shute Shield and Hospital Cup – the two tournaments where the bulk of Australia’s talent comes out of.
The cross-over comp has been on the agenda for the past two years, but Waugh has made it a priority since replacing Andy Marinos.
“It’s a pretty small population, Australia, and if you think about the rugby supporter base, it is based in the communities, it’s based in schools and clubs and we need to connect with where our base is,” Waugh said in his maiden address as RA CEO in June.
“People are now making a choice about whether they go to club games or whether they go to Super Rugby games and when I was playing, you’d go to your club game and then you’d support your club players at the Super Rugby game.
“It’s really important that we actually go back to that and we put our best players and Super players into clubs. Then we bring the club supporters into Super Rugby and into Test matches. I know it sounds pretty logical, but I do think there’s been a huge separation over time.
“So how do we actually connect our rugby community and ensure that the game starts and ends in our clubs, and we need to be invested in that space.”
Meanwhile, sources have told The Roar that RA has had sign off on its information pack and the financials relating to its looming private equity bid.
It’s believed an eighth party has come to the table, with another US firm looking for a trophy asset in sport. RA is hoping the competitiveness drives their value up, with the NZR, who signed a $NZ200 million deal last year, watching on closely.
While the governing body has yet to decide whether they will opt for a debt or equity deal, it’s thought that RA will know the path they’re heading down by mid-September.
RA is hoping its private equity deal, coupled with staging the Lions in 2025 and the men’s (2027) and women’s (2029) World Cup, will help power the game forward, regenerate its pathways and grassroots and secure the game’s future.