AUCKLAND (Reuters) - It was not a serious suggestion but British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland agreed the clash between the invitational Barbarians side and All Blacks later this year could be the tiebreaker for their drawn test series with the Lions.
The All Blacks and Lions battled to a 15-15 draw in the third test at Eden Park on Saturday, leaving the series locked at 1-1, with both teams feeling frustrated.
The All Blacks have organised a clash against the Barbarians on their end-of-season tour to Europe to commemorate their 125th anniversary, along with tests against France, Scotland and Wales.
In the past the Barbarians have fielded teams that were widely considered to be a Lions side in another guise in their matches to end tours from southern hemisphere nations, but the concept has been abandoned since rugby went professional in 1995.
Gatland, who wore a red nose into the media conference as a retort to a local newspaper who depicted him as a clown during the tour, agreed it could be considered again to settle the series once and for all.
“That would be good wouldn’t it,” he said grinning broadly when asked if the Lions players might be selected for the Barbarians. “Maybe we should think about that.”
Gatland, however, acknowledged the players’ clubs would probably need to give the idea approval, something that is unlikely given the criticism of Lions tours.
British media have reported that club owners have lobbied for shorter tours and even suggested they be abandoned.
Gatland, however, was adamant the combined side’s tours should continue to be included in the global calendar.
”Once the global calendar is put in place we need to see where the Lions fit in,“ Gatland said. ”This tour is unique.
“After the success of the tour with the fans and the games and how brilliant the atmosphere has been if you’re in South Africa then you’d be pretty excited about four years time.”
While disappointed with the outcome, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the influx of more than 20,000 passionate Lions supporters into the country had proved how important it was they continue into the future.
”It has been a wonderful advertisement for rugby,“ Hansen said. ”Hopefully the British and Irish Lions fans that have travelled around the country have really enjoyed themselves.
“Hopefully the Kiwis have made them feel at home and they will go home and say what a great time they’ve had and send more people over here.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Clare Lovell