Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Is it fair for the Lions to name a weakened side?

The Lions will send an under-strength squad to Argentina to face the Jaguares. Photo / Getty
The Lions will send an under-strength squad to Argentina to face the Jaguares. Photo / Getty

Tanking, rest and rotation-they are sports formulas which have yet to sit comfortably into the New Zealand sports psyche.

We know rugby is a 23-man game which caters for injuries and tactical substitutions. It's a different beast from the attrition-filled sport which tested multiple qualities of 30 players over 80 minutes.

Now we have the Lions leaving their top side at home while the rest of the Super Rugby squad travels to Argentina to play the Jaguares.

The Lions are guaranteed top spot in their South African conference and will host a quarter-final and if they triumph, they will have the same hosting privileges for a semifinal.

The management and coaches at the Lions have weighed up the 26 hours of travel, waiting and connecting flights each way and decided their top players will benefit in the playoffs if they stay at home.

Nothing in the rules prevents the Lions' choice but it points to one of the fundamental problems with the expanded tournament.

Coach Johan Ackermann cites the welfare of his players at this stage of the tournament as a critical factor in his decision. His top XV will train at home, rehab, sleep in their own beds and be refreshed for their quarterfinal.

We might not like the strategy and there is an argument it further downgrades the substance and character of the competition however the rules allow it and Ackermann is using those to his advantage.

Fair play to him but now the Lions may hit a New Zealand rival in a juicy quarterfinal. Wise move? The jury will decide next week.

- NZ Herald

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