Trio of All Blacks legends want Thomond Park back in touring mix

A trio of All Blacks legends has called for New Zealand to return to midweek tour fixtures and put the likes of Thomond Park back on the itinerary in the post-pandemic world.
Trio of All Blacks legends want Thomond Park back in touring mix
Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

A trio of All Blacks legends has called for New Zealand to return to midweek tour fixtures and put the likes of Thomond Park back on the itinerary in the post-pandemic world.

With unions all over the world struggling in the absence of Test matches and cross-border competition as governments battle to contain the public health emergency being caused by Covid-19, the game’s governing bodies have an opportunity to reshape and reinvigorate the global rugby calendar.

The future of the southern hemisphere’s Super Rugby competition for club franchises is currently being discussed having come under fire for its lack of sparkle and exhausting international travel requirements while All Blacks heroes John Kirwan, Justin Marshall, and Jeff Wilson believe a return to lengthy old-school touring by national teams could be a way out of the morass.

Talking to New Zealand’s Sky Sports, Wilson, now a broadcaster, suggested reviving three-Test series between South Africa and the All Blacks while Kirwan said: "I’m always talking about tribalism and tradition. Why is the Lions so successful? Because we look forward to it.

"I think the future can be about touring because we’re going to too many places too often.

"So, if we toured the UK but we only toured England and Ireland, say, but we played mid-week... Munster, maybe Saracens, we would fill those stadiums.

"Of course, there has to be the old moola in the middle of it, but bring back the old tours to make money, but also regalvanise us."

Scrum-half Marshall recalled the All Blacks playing Munster in 2008 when the tourists helped the Irish province mark the opening of the renovated Thomond Park and would love to see a return of such fixtures.

“Let’s think about the modern-day player and some of our more established, senior All Blacks. It’s quite repetitive for them, even the international games," Marshall said.

‘All of a sudden you throw into the mix, like when (the All Blacks) played Munster a few years ago, which was an outstanding success.

"The opportunity for them to go somewhere … what it’s like to play in somewhere like Limerick, which is never an easy place to go."

Kirwan added: "Cut down Super Rugby, whatever the new one is going to look like. Leave four or five weekends so you can have North v South, you can go on tour or you can play midweek.

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