The Lions have become embroiled in a furious row with the Barbarians which led to the hasty alteration of the invitational team’s line-up.
When Barbarians team manager Derek Quinnell announced the side chosen by Dai Young to face Warren Gatland’s squad on Saturday, it is understood that Lions officials were incensed by the absence of local player Rowan Varty.
John Feehan, the Lions chief executive, together with the director of sales and marketing, Charlie McEwen, dashed to the Barbarians hotel to hold an urgent, mid-afternoon meeting with their counterparts.
Shortly afterwards, the Barbarians announced a change to their bench contingent, with Varty’s name added alongside that of Mike Tindall in the No 23 replacement place.
It was alleged that former England centre Tindall was struggling with a calf niggle.
However, behind this convenient explanation lies a more murky issue as it was later confirmed that the Lions pressurised their opponents into making the alteration amid suggestions that there was a contractual obligation to field a local player to boost interest in the fixture.
Of course, the Lions’ own view was that they had merely ‘reminded’ their rivals of the importance of a local presence and they were adamant there was not a formal agreement.
The official line is that the Barbarians will make a late call between Tindall and Varty but one scenario which has been considered is that both sides include nine replacements for a game of 24 v 24 — contravening IRB regulations.
Young named a strong side led by Italy captain Sergio Parisse and Quinnell revealed that the players have a self-imposed alcohol ban this week — a major break with tradition — in the aftermath of their 40-12 mauling by England at Twickenham last Sunday.
The Lions versus the Barbarians will screen live on Fox Sports 2 from 9.30pm AEST on Saturday June 1st.