Gareth Ellis: Lions need Tour updates – but no playing return for me

Gareth Ellis.
Gareth Ellis.
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The Six Nations returns again this week and we’ve seen already how much media attention this competition receives.

It is another reminder of how great international sport can be – and how we need to up things in rugby league to start commanding that profile, too.

When it was first announced about Great Britain returning in 2019 – the Lions coming back – I was as excited as anyone.

Obviously I’ve played for Great Britain, know what that feels like, the pride it brings and all of that.

As a kid I dreamed about pulling on that jersey and representing my country.

It was Great Britain back then, before it switched to England, and I was on the last Lions tour, which was 13 years ago now in 2006.

It’s brilliant to know current players will now get a chance to experience just what that is like.

I’m a massive fan of the Lions and all it represents. I’m looking forward to seeing our boys go down there and tour the southern hemisphere sides.

However, the worrying thing is – even though it is scheduled for later this year – we still don’t know the dates of any of the games or any firm details on the actual itinerary.

This is a concern. It’s not great for the rugby side of it – the Lions’ planning etc – but also, of course, for the fans.

For some supporters a Lions tour could be a once-in-a-lifetime trip that they may have saved their whole lives for yet, unfortunately, despite it only being at the end of this season they are still in the dark about it all.

Having helped David Howes’s tour Down Under for the 2017 World Cup I know from first-hand experience just how much planning and organisation goes into such a trip to get it right.

There is a lot of time and effort put in to make sure everything goes according to plan and that it is a dream holiday for those supporters yet, at the moment, nobody can plan anything, which is a real shame.

We heard in November that it had been agreed that Great Britain would play Tests against Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and possibly one other Pacific nation.

But, for one reason or another, we are still awaiting those details to be firmed up.

We know Australia are coming here next year for an old-fashioned Ashes series against England, which will be brilliant leading into the 2021 Rugby League World Cup here the following year.

But no one can even buy tickets yet for the 2019 fixtures.

We need to ensure it is sorted to help everyone make the most of this chance as it will be superb in building the profile again of international rugby league.

Obviously a lot has been made of me making my playing return for Hull’s reserve side on Saturday.

I’m coaching them this season as part of my new role, but playing wasn’t something I expected to be doing.

We lost a couple of players during the week, though, and with there being no Super League game Lee Radford opted to give more first-teamers a run than he would do ordinarily.

He didn’t want them out there too long, though, which would have meant giving some of the younger players longer minutes.

I didn’t think it was fair to leave some with less experience out there for 70 minutes or so, so I put my hand up. It was good to have a run with them, but I’m not expecting a permanent return.