April 8, 2020 / 6:42 AM / 3 months ago

Gatland wants Lions to play All Blacks before South Africa tour

(Reuters) - British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland wants his team to play a warm-up match against the All Blacks before their tour of South Africa next year.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Wales v Barbarians - Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Britain - November 30, 2019 Barbarians coach Warren Gatland before the match Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

Rugby, like most other sports, has been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Gatland, who coached the Lions in their drawn series in New Zealand in 2017, said the one-off ‘decider’ could generate much-needed revenue when the sport resumes.

The 56-year-old added that he had broached the subject of the Lions playing the All Blacks to New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson but that they could play New Zealand Maori as an alternative.

“I’ve spoken to Mark Robinson about a warm-up game for the Lions and he was potentially talking about the New Zealand Maoris,” Gatland told Sky Sports New Zealand.

“But is it something that the All Blacks go up there for? A decider before we go off to South Africa at the end of June next year.

“Potentially it’s an opportunity to make 4 million or 5 million pounds ($6.16 million) from a game like that and put some money back into the coffers that we’re going to need.”

Gatland stepped down as Wales coach after guiding them to the World Cup semi-finals last year and currently coaches Super Rugby side Waikato Chiefs. He will take a year off from that role to lead the Lions on their tour.

The Lions play the first test of the three-match series in South Africa at the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg on July 24 2021, with the second test to be staged at the Cape Town Stadium a week later.

The final test will be played at the Springboks’ traditional fortress of Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Aug. 7.

($1 = 0.8114 pounds)

Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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