Rugby: ARU opens can of worms with Lions camp

The Wallabies and Lions play in a three match series beginning in June. Photo / Getty Images
The Wallabies and Lions play in a three match series beginning in June. Photo / Getty Images

Wallabies players will be quarantined for three weeks leading into the British and Irish Lions series in a protective move which has defied Australia's Super Rugby franchises and could open another can of worms.

Queensland, NSW and the Brumbies have been forced to fall into line behind Wallabies coach Robbie Deans after the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) on Thursday ruled 25 Test players would participate in an extended camp.

The controversial move was expected despite all five Australian franchises opposing Deans' wishes at a high-performance meeting late last year.

The Reds, Brumbies and Waratahs - set to have the highest representation of Wallabies - were most outspoken as the three-week camp will rob them of their star players for matches on June 7, 8 and 9.

While Queensland play the Lions in a potential blockbuster at Suncorp Stadium, the Brumbies take on the Rebels and NSW play the Western Force in penultimate-round local derbies which could be crucial to their Super Rugby play-off hopes.

But new ARU chief executive Bill Pulver has attempted to appease the Waratahs and Brumbies by saying Wallabies could be released if their finals hopes are on the line.

"If those Super Rugby matches have significant bearing on the competition standings, and finals spots are at stake, the ARU will take that under serious consideration," Pulver said in a statement.

If that did occur, and the Rebels and Force were not boosted by the release of their top Wallabies, then rival teams across the competition would be rightly aggrieved by what would be seen as a significant leg-up.

Brumbies coach Jake White would also want all his best players for the entire week, after stressing the late return of Wallabies one or two days pre-game was not good enough.

Waratahs counterpart Michael Cheika has also warned an extended camp would leave Wallabies players short of match fitness for the June 22 first Test against a finely-tuned top Lions outfit who would play three games in the same time.

The All Blacks (2005) and Springboks (2009) also rested their Test players leading into tour matches but they did not take them out of Super Rugby fixtures.

When the Wallabies beat the Lions 2-1 in 2001, players were barred from representing the Waratahs and Brumbies but were released to play for the Reds a fortnight before the first Test.

"There is no doubt, from an Australian Rugby perspective, that when the Lions come to Australia ... the primary objective is for the Wallabies to win the three-Test series and preparation is crucial," Pulver said.

- AAP

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