Despite the backlash from southern rugby fans due to the lack of a South Island All Blacks vs British and Irish Lions test in favour of two in Auckland and one in Wellington, I have to say that we must move with the times.
People forget how massive the last British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand was, with 10,000 Brits travelling to New Zealand, with or without tickets.
No doubt the old Jade Stadium and Christchurch would have been given a test match, but their current stadium has a capacity of only about half the size, while Forsyth Barr Stadium can fit 30,000 fans which is not much less than the likes of Westpac Stadium in Wellington, and is the best stadium in New Zealand, Dunedin would struggle with the influx of people.
I was living in Dunedin in 2005 and the student city went crazy, with not enough accommodation, meaning that fans had to stay in Invercargill or Queenstown and commute for the game and return to their base. That is rather average for tourism anyway, but Dunedin would hardly be able to cope with the influx of fans with or without tickets, for a test match. Back then there was so much demand for tickets, that people were scalping them to British tourists making the most of the low kiwi dollar. It is funny how no one was complaining of scalping back then when it was at the expense of our British rivals.
Don't get me wrong, it would have been great to get a British and Irish Lions test match in Dunedin, but when Auckland can host two tests with approximately twice the capacity of Forsyth Barr Stadium, it makes financial sense.
I am personally more upset about the provinces missing out on playing the British and Irish Lions. In this day and age, the chances of the semi-professional ITM Cup teams defeating the British and Irish Lions is small, but it took the tourists all around the country. This time, only Northland has a shot at glory. It will be good to see more even games against Super Rugby teams who will be without their All Blacks, but at least we should avoid the thrashings, but we will also avoid the glory days. It is a sign of the times though. Tours are shorter and there are more games against professional teams rather than your old style provincial teams.
I am glad that Forsyth Barr Stadium hosts the Lions against the Highlanders, along with a 2016 test against Wales and a 2017 test against the Wallabies. It is the best stadium in the country for viewing rugby and indoors. It may not be the biggest, but it is big enough for a city of Dunedin's size.
In summary, I am not overjoyed by the fixtures list which sees the South Island and the provinces miss out on many British and Irish Lions games, but it is a sign of the professional era with a shorter tour and more emphasis on the almighty dollar than in the past. That is why the All Blacks playing in Samoa was such a novelty, when you compare it to them playing in big stadiums in Japan, Hong Kong and the USA.
Should the British and Irish Lions play the All Blacks in the South Island and play against the provinces, or not?