The British Lions 10-match tour to New Zealand has been branded 'unsustainable' with Premier Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty insisting players will suffer more long-term injuries as a result of next summer's gruelling schedule.
The Lions play the first of seven warm-up games against a New Zealand Provincial Union XV on June 3 next year - a week after the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham - before three Tests against the heavily-fancied world champions.
Four years ago Wales players made up the bulk of Warren Gatland's tour squad to Australia and with Eddie Jones' England high-flying players set to feature heavily in the Lions squad to New Zealand, McCafferty says there will inevitably be consequences.
'It's a punishing schedule,' he said. 'Personally I don't know why that was signed up to. To play 10 games over that period of time I think is a lot. There's going to be a difficulty for sure of players coming back off that tour into the Premiership for 17-18.
'The stats will show you that countries that have had a very large contingent of Lions players - and Wales was most recent - tend to suffer more injuries in that following season. It does have an impact. That isn't necessarily cause and outcome you can see directly.
'It's one of the elements that's not sustainable to think that players can go through a club and international season and be involved in that scale of a tour and then be in shape for the following season as well.'