Rugby-Australia chief keen on southern hemisphere 'Lions'

SYDNEY, July 3 Wed Jul 3, 2013 3:26am BST

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SYDNEY, July 3 (Reuters) - Australia rugby chief Bill Pulver is keen on the idea of a southern hemisphere equivalent of the British and Irish Lions and thinks he has identified a place for it in the international calendar.

Pulver, who took over as Australian Rugby Union chief in January, admitted he had been blown away by the excitement generated by the visit of the tourists to Australia, which he described as a "phenomenal success".

"I would love the idea," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

"It's a very interesting question, because we've now got a cycle where we've got a Lions tour one year, a World Cup in one year and we've now got a rugby sevens at Olympic Games in one year.

"In some ways there's an extra year which opens itself up to a couple of interesting concepts.

"We're about to embark in the ARU on a strategic planning process and it really does invite a lot of creative thought to think of a Lions equivalent from the southern hemisphere.

"We're not very far down the track in terms of discussion around that. Some of the countries in the southern hemisphere are concerned about the amount of rugby their senior players are playing.

"It would have to be addressed in that context but it certainly invites a lot of exciting thought, doesn't it?"

Even if South Africa and Argentina were not interested, Pulver said he would like to investigate a way to mark the centenary of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landings at Gallipoli in World War One, still remembered on April 25 every year in both countries.

"I'd even be happy to take the best of Australia and New Zealand," he said.

"A concept I'd love to develop is around the centenary of ANZAC day in 2015. Imagine playing a combined Australia-New Zealand team against and Allies team, or a Lions team, though it probably couldn't be a Lions team.

"There's some terrific ideas there, there's an opportunity to take this game to another level and I think they have to be looked at seriously."

A combined ANZAC team was supposed to take on the Lions in the final match of the 1989 tour but only three All Blacks showed up because of commitments at home and the tourists won 19-15 at Ballymore. (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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