Lions agree deal with the Premiership to release players for warm-up match against Japan in June after domestic season ends as Warren Gatland’s side receive a huge boost ahead of South Africa tour
- The Gallagher Premiership has agreed to release players ahead of the Lions tour
- Players faced missing out on warm-up match v Japan if officials blocked them
- Warren Gatland feared the team’s preparations could be harmed as a result
- PRL said negotiations were never purely about money and wished the Lions well
The British and Irish Lions have reached an agreement with the Gallagher Premiership over the release of players for the pre-tour Test against Japan at Murrayfield on June 26.
Warren Gatland had revealed that the prospect of stars from the English top flight being unavailable for the warm-up game might harm their chances of being selected for the tour to South Africa.
But Premiership Rugby Limited has announced that players will be released at the conclusion of their domestic commitments, enabling them to take part in the training camp in Jersey and the Japan match.
Gallagher Premiership has confirmed it will release players to join up with the Lions in June
The regular Premiership season finishes on June 14 and while those involved in the play-offs can only join up with the Lions once their club duties are over, all others are now available to Gatland.
‘We are very grateful to Premiership Rugby and PRO14 for the release of players after they have concluded their domestic commitments,’ Lions chairman Jason Leonard said.
A refusal to grant release would have affected not only England stars but also Scotland and Wales internationals such as Dan Biggar, Stuart Hogg and Taulupe Faletau, who are competing in the top flight.
‘We know how much the Lions tour means to rugby fans and players and we wish the Lions every success. We are sure our players will make a huge contribution,’ a PRL statement read.
The decision is a huge boost to boss Warren Gatland, who was concerned about preparations
‘Throughout the negotiations, Premiership Rugby has sought a solution that works for everyone – the players, the clubs and the Lions.
‘This discussion was never just about money. Premiership clubs are at the very heart of English rugby – helping to nurture the pipeline of talent which supports the international game and future Lions tours.
‘It is essential that we are properly consulted – and our position respected – when fixtures are scheduled which impact the domestic season.
PRL said it understood the importance of the Lions but that it was important to find a solution
‘The Lions warm-up match against Japan falls outside of the World Rugby regulation nine window for release of players for international rugby, which is in breach of what was agreed in San Francisco in 2017.
‘The Japan game also clashes with the highlight of our season, the Premiership final.
‘For future Lions tours, Premiership Rugby will not release players until after the Premiership final.
‘We will continue to honour our commitments around player-release, under regulation nine, and encourage all parties in rugby to work more closely to avoid situations like this happening in the future.’