Wallabies set to be rested ahead of Lions series
September 21, 2012
The British & Irish Lions' tour to Australia next year provided some "unique challenges" for SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters © Getty Images
The Wallabies are set to be fighting fit for next year's vist of the British & Irish Lions after it was confirmed that Australia's Super Rugby sides will not play in the lead up to the eagerly-awaited Test series.
SANZAR announced the draw for the 2013 Super Rugby season today following an extended period of negotiation to address Australian Rugby Union (ARU) concerns about a lack of preparation time for their meeting with the Lions.
As a result, the Wallabies will have a minimum 13-day gap for a camp between Round 17 of the Super Rugby season and the opening Test against the Lions in Brisbane on June 22.
"While the Lions tour obviously added an element of complexity when it came to designing the Super Rugby draw, SANZAR has worked through that process and come up with elegant solutions," ARU chief executive John O'Neill said.
"In 2013, Australian Rugby fans will get the best of both worlds ... a Super Rugby competition that continues to grow in stature and status, and a tour by the British and Irish Lions for the first time in 12 years.
"When the Lions were last in Australia in 2001, it was an historic season for the game in this country. Apart from the success of that tour by one of the world's most iconic sporting teams, an Australian side won the Super Rugby title for the first time ever."
Only Australian conference teams - Rebels v Force and Brumbies v Reds - will be action in the opening round of the new Super Rugby season on February 15/16 and also Round 17 - Brumbies v Rebels and Force v Waratahs - on June 7/9. Rounds 18 and 19, after the June break, will only feature New Zealand and South African conference sides.
"The Lions tour to Australia presented some unique challenges in preparing the 2013 Super Rugby draw," SANZAR CEO Greg Peters said. "We are very appreciative of cooperation we received from the National Unions and broadcasters in preparing this draw and working through the issues."
Peters said there was much excitement building despite being months out. "Over the last two seasons we have seen two franchises - the Reds and the Chiefs -win the Super Rugby trophy for the first time," Peters said. The emphasis in early rounds is again on local derbies that have again proven to be the most watched and attended matches in 2012."
The defending champion Chiefs begin their campaign in Dunedin against the Highlanders on Friday, February 22 at Forsyth Barr Stadium while newcomers the Southern Kings will make their competition bow against the Force at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth the following day.
Peters said the draw would build on the successes of 2012. "The 2012 Super Rugby season was the most watched season of Super Rugby ever, both in terms of those attending matches live and also viewing on television. The 2013 draw will hopefully see us grow those numbers again," he said.
The Super Rugby Finals Series starts on Friday, July 19, with the Super Rugby Qualifiers scheduled for that weekend - while the Super Rugby semi-finals will take place on July 26/27, with the Super Rugby Final to be played on Saturday, August 3.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
With the Lions' tour to Australia fast-approaching, ESPN's Austin Healey and Mark Durden-Smith sat down to share their memories of the 2001 trip Down Under
Ask John answers questions on the Leopards' tour to Italy in 1974, brotherly Test sides, Pat McGrath, England's games against the Barbarians and Jacques Brunel
"We were only five metres away in the last Test of getting that try and with Jonny's inevitable conversion, we'd have won it." Tom Hamilton talks to Lions fullback Matt Perry