Gerry Thornley: A move to summer would damage Irish rugby on many levels

Aligning the international Test calendar could come at a cost to the game on many levels

Fran Cotton in the foreground of a mud covered British Lions lineout along with Moss Keane (second left), Phil Orr (centre) and Jeff Squire (arms out) against New Zealand Juniors at the Athletic Park in Wellington in July 1977. Photograph: Adrian Murrell/Allsport/Getty Images/Hulton Archive

Fran Cotton in the foreground of a mud covered British Lions lineout along with Moss Keane (second left), Phil Orr (centre) and Jeff Squire (arms out) against New Zealand Juniors at the Athletic Park in Wellington in July 1977. Photograph: Adrian Murrell/Allsport/Getty Images/Hulton Archive

Back in its more sepia-tinged days, when matches were often played on grassless mudheaps, there’s an iconic picture of Fran Cotton and his fellow Lions during their match against the New Zealand Juniors in Wellington in July 1977. It’s one of those snaps where the players of both sides have become so covered in mud that they are fairly indistinguishable from each other.

A decade on, there was also a famous photograph of Irish tighthead Des Fitzgerald and Welsh loosehead Jeff Whitefoot. They were coming off the Cardiff Arms Park after Ireland had just beaten Wales 15-11, arms around each other, in the final game of the 1987 Five Nations. Likewise, they were so caked in mud they could just as easily have been team-mates as opponents.

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