Lions set for 'extraordinary' tour
Lions set for 'extraordinary' tourSHARE
The British and Irish Lions will play the Wallabies in three Tests on their nine-match tour of Australia in 2013, in what the Australian Rugby Union feel will be another extraordinary event.
The Lions, featuring the best players from England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, will take on Australia in Brisbane on June 22, Melbourne on June 29 and Sydney on July 6.
The Lions visit Australia once every 12 years with the Wallabies winning the last series Down Under in 2001 by two Tests to one.
On the 2013 Tour, the Lions will play in six Australian cities, kicking off against Super Rugby franchise Force in Perth on June 5.
The Lions will also take on the other four Australian Super Rugby teams – Reds in Brisbane on June 8, the Waratahs in Sydney on June 15, Brumbies in Canberra on June 18 and the Rebels in Melbourne on June 25.
There will also be a match against a combined NSW-Queensland Country line-up in Newcastle on June 12.
"The Lions tour here in 2001 was an extraordinary event and one which provided significant economic benefit to those cities which hosted major matches," ARU Managing Director John O'Neill said.
"More than 8000 Lions supporters came to Australia from the UK and Ireland on official tour packages and many more thousands made their own way here.
"Four years ago in South Africa there were said to be 40,000 Lions fans that made the trek there to support their team.
"A Lions Tour is a massive occasion. Behind the Rugby World Cup it is the most engaging, high-profile and popular event our game can showcase.
"It is not just about the three Tests. It is about the hype and momentum a tour of six weeks develops.
"Back in 2001, the feature of the First Test was the seas of Red as the Lions fans dressed en masse in the team's colours to show their support.
"It was a wonderful time and an unforgettable tour and 2013 promises to be even bigger and better.
"The tradition and history of the Lions continues with every tour they embark on to New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.
"The Lions tour only once every four years, so they visit the big three Southern Hemisphere nations only once every 12 years.
"As in 2001, we also expect demand for Lions tickets to be extraordinarily high. It will be a tour not to miss."
Before arriving in Australia, the Lions will play a match in Hong Kong against the Barbarians on June 1.
The schedule means New South Wales will host three matches – including a game against the Waratahs and the third and final Test.
Bruce Worboys, Executive Director of NSW Rugby Union said they are "thrilled" with the inclusion of a fixture against the Combined Country side and delighted to be hosting this match in Newcastle.
Past Lions' tour schedules have always included a match against NSW Country. In a break from tradition, in 2013 the visitors will take on a combined NSW and Queensland selection.
"This match will see the very best amateur players up against one of the most professional touring sides in the world and it provides a great opportunity to showcase Country Rugby," said Worboys.
Jason Allen, CEO of Waratahs Rugby added: "The Lions tour is the biggest event in international rugby behind the World Cup and to have the chance to take them on is a thrill for everyone involved with the Waratahs."
The state of Queensland will host two matches during the highly anticipated tour.
The blockbuster Reds and Lions showdown has been scheduled for June 8 – a fortnight before the Lions return to Suncorp Stadium on June 22 for the opening Test of their three-game series against the Wallabies.
"The decision to stage two of the British and Irish Lions fixtures in Queensland is vindication of how strong the code of Rugby has become in Queensland," Queensland Rugby CEO Jim Carmichael said.
"The Lions fixture in June against the Reds is another opportunity for our young team to test themselves against the world's best in their pursuit of greatness."
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said his team was excited by the challenge of playing against the much-celebrated Lions.
"We've never hidden from the fact that we want to test ourselves against the best and the Lions match will be an encounter our entire group will eagerly await," McKenzie said.
"A Lions tour is a special event which only a few players get the chance to experience, so we'll be ensuring we make the most of the opportunity when it comes around."
The British and Irish Lions 2013 tour schedule:
Wednesday, June 5: v Western Force, Perth
Saturday, June 8: v Queensland Reds, Brisbane
Wednesday, June 12: v Combined NSW-Queensland Country, Newcastle
Saturday, June 15: v NSW Waratahs, Sydney
Tuesday, June 18: v ACT Brumbies, Canberra
Saturday, June 22: v Wallabies, Brisbane
Tuesday, June 25: v Melbourne Rebels, Melbourne
Saturday, June 29: v Wallabies, Melbourne
Saturday, July 6: v Wallabies, Sydney