Lions agree deal with Premiership to release players in June

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 Premiership clubs over player release for a training camp in Jersey and the warm-up fixture against Japan.

Warren Gatland was in danger of being without key players for his preparations because the dates fall outside of World Rugby’s Regulation 9 release window.

The stalemate left Premiership-based fringe players in danger of missing out on selection, but a deal has now been struck.

Gallagher Premiership has confirmed it will release players to join up with the Lions in June 

A Premiership spokesperson confirmed: ‘An agreement has been reached for the release of all players at the conclusion of their domestic commitments for the Lions’ warm-up game against Japan. They will also be available for any training camp ahead of that fixture.

‘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.

‘Throughout the negotiations, Premiership Rugby has sought a solution that works for everyone – the players, the clubs and the Lions.’

However, PRL also warned that clubs will stand firm over player release for future tours.

The decision is a huge boost to boss Warren Gatland, who was concerned about preparations 

The statement added: ‘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.

‘The Lions warm-up match against Japan falls outside of the World Rugby Regulation 9 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.

PRL said it understood the importance of the Lions and was glad to have found a solution

‘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 9, and encourage all parties in rugby to work more closely to avoid situations like this happening in the future.’

Meanwhile, Wasps and England lock Joe Launchbury will miss out on the tour after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament.

The forward suffered the injury during Sunday’s victory over Bath and will undergo surgery.

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