Clive Woodward slams Australian team’s decision ahead of the first game of the Tour.
Former Wallabies coach John Connolly warned the British and Irish Lions could cut back future tours after ex-England boss Clive Woodward slammed Western Force for picking an under-strength side.
Writing in Britain’s Daily Mail, Woodward said it was “unacceptable and disgraceful to cobble together a weakened, second-string club team to play against some of the best players in the world on one of the great rugby tours”.
With a Super 15 clash against NSW Waratahs looming next weekend, Force rested a host of big names for their clash with the Lions on Wednesday night, the visitors’ first game on their tour of Australia.
In their place are a clutch of uncapped players, including seven who have never even played Super Rugby before.
“Treating the Lions with such contempt threatens to undermine their status in the global game,” Woodward said in the Mail, which dubbed the Perth team “Western Farce”.
“The Lions come to Australia once every 12 years but if this is how they are going to be treated in this country then they should seriously consider whether to return.”
Connolly disagreed that the Lions were being treated with contempt, but he admitted picking under-strength sides for tour matches may reduce the scale of future British and Irish Lions visits.
“Due to the attitude we have adopted, the wash-up from this is that we will probably see the end of the long Lions tours,” he said.
“They will play maybe two warm-up games, three Tests and then go home.”
However, Connolly sympathised with Force coach Michael Foley.
“Foley has no choice. What he has done is perfectly right but he can’t win whichever way he goes,” Connolly said.
Another former Wallabies coach, Bob Dwyer, who led the team to their 1991 World Cup triumph, said Woodward should not criticise players he is not familiar with.
“He (Foley) can pick a side as he sees fit — and Clive doesn’t know the quality of the players that are there,” he said.
“I would rather see full-strength teams run out in tour matches but around the world people choose not to do that.
“You can’t say ‘we are the Lions so we demand you pick your best side’.”
After the match in Perth, the Lions travel to Brisbane to face the Queensland Reds on Saturday.
A combined NSW/Queensland Country side await them in Newcastle on June 11 before two matches against Super 15 teams NSW Waratahs in Sydney on June 15 and ACT Brumbies in Canberra three days later.
The Lions then face the Wallabies in three Tests in Brisbane on June 22, Melbourne on June 29 and Sydney on July 6, punctuated with a tour match against Melbourne Rebels on June 25.