The 2017 British and Irish Lions touring side could face New Zealand’s best players in their Super Rugby teams as well as in the Tests against the All Blacks.
The Lions have a brutal schedule of matches which could be tougher than originally expected as the Blues, Crusaders and Highlanders will be permitted to select their All Blacks.
On recent tours when the Lions have faced Super Rugby sides the International players have been kept out of the fixtures but selector Grant Fox has revealed that a different approach will be adopted in 2017.
“The Super Rugby sides will be loaded up with All Blacks early because there’s a bit of time from game one to the first Test,” Fox told the New Zealand Herald.
“They need to play and then as we get closer to the Tests some of those franchises will have less access to the All Blacks as we start preparing for the series.”
The British and Irish Lions tour has five fixtures against the Super Rugby sides – Blues, Crusaders , Highlanders, Chiefs and Hurricanes.
The early matches could see weakened Lions teams taking the field due to the timing of the Aviva Premiership and Guinness PRO12 finals which take place seven days before the opening fixture against a Provincial XV side in Whangarei on June 3.
The only Super Rugby sides which might not include their All Blacks are the Chiefs who play the Lions on four days before the first test on 24 June and Hurricanes fixture on 27 June which is between two of the Tests.
Fox says that the British and Irish Lions tour is going to be “challenging” for the tourists.
“Any tour of New Zealand is going to be challenging because we’ve got real talent and depth here,” Fox said.
“It will be tough for them, but the difference is Wales were down to their mid-week team and you’d think a mid-week British and Irish Lions team would be stronger than Wales.”
2017 British and Irish Lions tour fixtures:
3 June – Provincial union team (Toll Stadium, Whangarei)
7 June – Blues (Eden Park, Auckland)
10 June – Crusaders (AMI Stadium, Christchurch)
13 June – Highlanders (Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin)
17 June – Maori (International Stadium, Rotorua)
20 June – Chiefs (Waikato Stadium, Hamilton)
24 June – New Zealand (First Test, Eden Park, Auckland)
27 June – Hurricanes (Westpac Stadium, Wellington)
1 July – New Zealand (Second Test, Westpac Stadium, Wellington)
8 July – New Zealand (Third Test, Eden Park, Auckland).