Lions tour: Australia Tour schedule announced for 2013 series
THE British and Irish Lions will begin their 2013 tour of Australia with a high profile warm-up game against the Barbarians in Hong Kong before embarking on the tour proper which will again included a test in Melbourne.
Melbourne featured on the test itinerary for the first time in 2001 when the Wallabies claimed a famous 35-14 win at the Colonial Stadium after trailing at half-time.
The Tour dates were announced by the Australian Rugby Football Union in Melbourne this morning and further details will be added at a press conference in Cardiff later today.
After their stop en route in Hong Kong, where Australia and New Zealand played a Bledisloe Cup fixture last year, The Lions' tour proper will start with a match against Super Rugby side the Western Force in Perth on Wednesday, June 5. It will end jut over a month later with the Third Test in Sydney on Saturday July 6.
The first Test will again be held in Brisbane - the scene of one of the Lions best ever Test victories in 2001 - with the second Test in Melbourne the following week and the third, and possibly deciding Test in Sydney
"The Lions tour here in 2001 was an extraordinary event and one which provided significant economic benefit to those cities which hosted major matches," said ARU managing director and CEO John O'Neill. "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."
Lions tour manager Andy Irvine said the announcement of the 2013 tour schedule marked a milestone in the team's history.
"Since 1888 when the Lions embarked on their first ever tour, which happened to be Australia, the famous red shirt has become an aspirational symbol of achievement for players in Britain and Ireland," he said.
"The Lions receive numerous requests to play matches around the world outside of the traditional tour destinations of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
"For 2013 we had the perfect opportunity to play a match in the developing rugby region of Asia, while at the same time break the long journey from Europe to Australia. As has become customary we also wanted 10 matches to maximise the essential pre-Test series build up.
"The last Lions tour to Australia in 2001 heralded the dawn of 'The Red Army' with tens of thousands of English, Irish, Scottish & Welsh tourists and ex-pats wearing the red jersey in support of the Lions.
"We look forward to another challenging tour to one of the world's most beautiful countries."
Lions chairman, Gerald Davies, said: "With the latest Rugby World Cup tournament completed, a major focus for the rugby world is now the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013.
"Lions tours are hugely popular and outside of Rugby World Cup represent one of the game's major showpieces, with global media coverage and ticket sales testament to their popularity."
British & Irish Lions 2013 Tour Schedule:
June 1 - Lions v Barbarians - Hong Kong
June 5 - Lions v Western Force - Perth
June 8 - Lions v Queensland Reds - Brisbane
June 12 - Lions v Combined New South Wales-Queensland Country - Newcastle
June 15 - Lions v New South Wales Waratahs - Sydney
June 18 - Lions v ACT Brumbies - Canberra
June 22 - Lions v Australia - Brisbane
June 25 - Lions v Melbourne Rebels - Melbourne
June 29 - Lions v Australia - Melbourne
July 6 - Lions v Australia - Sydney