Lions touch down in Hong Kong
May 29, 2013
Stuart Hogg (l) poses with Sam Warburton and welcoming children in Hong Kong © Getty Images
The British & Irish Lions touched down in Hong Kong on Tuesday for the first Asian tour match in their 125-year history, ahead of the three-Test series with Australia. The 37-man squad were given a warm welcome as they arrived at Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport wearing red Lions T-shirts.
Captain Sam Warburton and Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg posed with local schoolchildren who displayed a banner in Chinese saying "Welcome British and Irish Lions to Hong Kong" alongside the Lions' mascot Billy.
The Lions, who visit one southern hemisphere rugby nation every four years, kick off their tour on Saturday when they play the Barbarians at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium - venue for the annual Hong Kong Sevens tournament.
The Lions' first game in Asia adds to rugby's steadily growing presence in the region, including Bledisloe Cup games between Australia and New Zealand in Hong Kong and Japan's hosting of the 2019 IRB Rugby World Cup.
Saturday's match is a warm-up for the Lions' tour of Australia, where they will try to end a three-series losing streak since defeating South Africa in 1997.
In their last visit to Australia in 2001, they were edged out 2-1 in the gripping final instalment of a brutal series against John Eales' Wallabies. Subsequently, the Lions have suffered a thumping 3-0 loss to New Zealand in 2005 and a 2-1 reverse against South Africa in 2009.
After their first run-out on Saturday against the Barbarians, who lost 40-12 to a young England side at Twickenham last Sunday, the Lions will fly to Perth to face the Western Force on Wednesday. They will then play five more warm-ups before the Test series begins in Brisbane on June 22. The second Test is in Melbourne a week later and the series wraps up in Sydney on July 6.
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Women's World Cup, the opening round of the Top 14 and the Rugby Championship