Here are the latest rugby headlines for Monday, August 9.
Barnes backs Robertson for Lions
Stuart Barnes has backed Scott Robertson as the next head coach of the British and Irish Lions.
Despite there still being some enthusiasm for keeping Warren Gatland as the man to oversee the next tour in four years time, Barnes believes it’s time to bring the curtain down on the Kiwi’s reign – and his conservative approach.
And, in his opinion, there’s one stand out candidate.
READ MORE: Lions open the door for Warren Gatland to take charge of team again
READ MORE: Alun Wyn Jones reveals the emotive words he said to team-mates in final Lions huddle
“The only coach with that joyousness is the Crusaders’ Scott Robertson. Ask him (and maybe steal him from under the All Blacks’ noses) and take Ronan O’ Gara as No 2,” Barnes wrote in his latest column for The Times.
“That’s a combination that would have beaten a Springbok team there for the taking.
“Let’s have someone who will breakdance when his team win, as Robertson does. Let’s have a coach who will install ambition rather than fear of failure. I’d sign Robertson tomorrow; the rest can wait two years.
“Gatland is a proud Lion and a good man. But that doesn’t give him the right to manage the Lions in perpetuity. His record does not speak for itself.
“Four years is a ridiculously long time in sport. Four tours, on the evidence of the previous three, does not add up. If ‘the door is open’ it should be politely closed. It is time to thank him and move onwards.”
Australia to add Pacific Island nations for 2025 tour
Meanwhile, Australia are hoping to add Pacific Island nations to the Lions tour schedule for 2025 as part of plans to enhance the spectacle for fans.
The latest Lions tour has taken place against a backdrop of empty stadiums and largely uncompetitive warm-up games against largely inferior provincial sides.
With hopes high that fans will be able to return for the next tour, organisers are now determined to improve the quality of the tour for punters, and view the possibility of inviting the likes of Tonga and Fiji on board as a potential solution.
Rugby Australia Chairman Hamish McLennan told Sportsmail: “People are already excited about it. The Lions is the high point in the calendar but it’s the fans that complete it. We want it to be full blown, with as many of them over here as possible.
‘We want to anchor it back into what a traditional Lions tour looks like for the fans and the players. We want to deliver competitive games against our teams and we’d also like to bring in countries like Fiji and Tonga. We want to boost the marketability of the tour and that’s what a lot of people would love to see.”
Townsend backs fly-half duo to lead Test rugby’s new age
Gregor Townsend says maverick fly-halves Finn Russell and Marcus Smith are the future of Test rugby.
Russell came off the bench to produce an eye-catching performance at 10 during an otherwise disappointing third Test, his first appearance since recovering from an Achilles tendon injury that had prompted Gatland to call up Smith just a couple of weeks after the England rookie’s Test debut.
Despite impressing in a warm-up game against the Stormers, Smith wasn’t selected for the Test series, but has already been tipped for superstardom.
Townsend thinks both the Scot and the Englishman can provide the flair to take Test rugby in a new direction.
“People that excite supporters are very good individuals but nothing beats a win,” he said. “I’d imagine last night’s win meant a huge amount to the South African people, like the World Cup did.
“I know from experience that Lions tours are thought of very differently if you come out on top in the test series. So both have to be linked together. If you’re just playing and not winning you’re not going to inspire people but I do believe that players like Finn and Marcus have the game to show that their way of playing can win games.
“I believe the game has already moved to an era when 10s have to be attackers. They have to be runners and very, very good passers and also have an attacking kicking game that can unlock defences. We’ve seen players like Richie Mo’unga, we’ve seen Finn last night… those are the 10s who put defences under pressure.
“Marcus is very well set to do that and is already doing that with his club. I’m sure he’ll do that with his country over the next few years.”
Woodward: Lions blew it
Former England boss Clive Woodward has bemoaned the Lions’ lack of a ruthless streak following their series defeat to South Africa.
When they were in the ascendency during the decisive third and final Test, the tourists continued to turn down shots and goal and looked to turn the screw by kicking penalties to the corner.
But they did not prove fruitful and it’s a decision that Woodward feels cost them dear.
“This was a game and series the Lions should have won. In the final, harsh analysis they blew it in the third Test and only have themselves to blame,” he wrote in his column for the Daily Mail.
Looking at the tour in a broader sense, he added: “It must be said the tour and the series was a disappointing spectacle, bad-tempered and petty at times.
“The difficult Covid circumstances can’t have helped but the Euros rose above the bubble and quarantine issues, and the Olympics have soared gloriously above such inconveniences.
“This Lions series gave us very few moments to remember and that’s a pity.”
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