British and Irish Lions tour of Australia
Countdown for Lions tour begins
June 20, 2012
Andy Irvine is planning the Lions tour of Australia © Getty Images
The British and Irish Lions, along with the Australian Rugby Union, launched a countdown to the "highly-anticipated" nine-match tour on Wednesday, just over a year out from the opening Test.
In 2013, the Lions will face the Wallabies in three Tests, kicking off on June 22 at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium. Lions tour manager, and former Scotland full-back, Andy Irvine says preparations are already underway for what he hopes will be another successful tour of Australia.
"It is a series that is already highly anticipated," said Irvine. "Our plan is to ensure we are completely prepared for the tour and that we put in place an environment that will mean the Lions have every opportunity to be successful next year.
"It is just fantastic that the Lions concept has stood the test of time, taken on and embraced the professional era and emerged stronger and more popular than ever. The level of support the Lions enjoy from their supporters is unprecedented and the Lions are probably the best supported team in world rugby.
"It is a unique concept in world sport and one hell of a challenge, one that sees a combined team playing against some of the strongest teams in the world every four years on a tour away from home. Yet the players cherish the opportunity and those selected consider it the ultimate accolade in their playing career.
"The Lions are a very proud team with a unique ethos and a wonderful history, and the famous red shirt is synonymous with such a challenge and in 2013 that challenge is Australia and the Wallabies, one of the best teams in world rugby. But it is a challenge that the players relish and one that they will look forward to."
ARU chief John O'Neill shared Irvine's enthusiasm, declaring the Lions' tour will inject up to AU$300 million into the local economy. O'Neill also put forward a suggestion that a SANZAR - South Africa, New Zealand and Australia - team may face the Lions after the World Cup in 2015.
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