Following four years without a game, months of speculation and five weeks since Ian McGeechan's original squad announcement, the world's most-famous touring team will finally be back in action this weekend.
The 2009 Lions get their summer tour of South Africa underway on Saturday when they face a Royal XV in Phokeng, near Rustenburg.
The match marks the beginning of a 10-game tour that sees the Lions also take on the Golden Lions, Free State Cheetahs, Sharks, Western Province and Southern Kings in the build up to a highly-anticipated Test series against the reigning world champions.
The Lions face the might of the Springboks in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg on June 20, 27 and July 4 respectively, with a clash against the Emerging Boks sandwiched between the first and second internationals.
With the beginning of the Test series now only three weeks away, the Lions will be aiming to get their 2009 tour off to an impressive start with victory over an invitational side selected from five Vodacom Cup teams - the Falcons, Griffins, Griquas, Leopards and Pumas.
The Royal XV are coached by Leopards boss Chaka Willemse and skippered by fellow Leopard Wilhelm Koch. The starting side features players from just two of the five regional teams, with the Griquas rewarded for their recent Vodacom Cup success with 11 of the first-choice spots and the Leopards providing the remaining four starters.
The hosts boast five players with Super 14 experience, with fly-half Naas Olivier, scrum-half Sarel Pretorius, wing Bjorn Basson and back row Bees Roux having all played regularly for the Cheetahs in this year's tournament, while centre Deon van Rensburg featured for the Golden Lions in the southern hemisphere's premier club competition in 2009.
Ian McGeechan has therefore named a powerful-looking XV for the opening fixture of the tour, with squad captain Paul O'Connell leading the Lions for the first time in his career.
The Munster lock played all three Tests against the All Blacks in 2005 and has admitted he is desperate to make amends for the disappointments of his first tour in Lions colours.
O'Connell is joined in the matchday 22 by a further eight players with Lions experience, including fellow Test Lions Stephen Jones, Ronan O'Gara, Phil Vickery, Martyn Williams and Shane Williams.
A total of 14 squad members are set to make their Lions debuts, with nine of those players named in the starting XV for the clash at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace.
All four Home Unions are represented in the starting side, with Wales contributing seven players in a team that also includes four Irishmen, three Englishmen and one Scot.
All bar one member of the matchday 22 was among McGeechan's original 37-man touring party selection made on April 21, with Edinburgh scrum-half Mike Blair the only exception having replaced the injured Tomas O'Leary prior to departure.
Did you know?
Between them, the Lions starting XV possess 681 international caps, plus a further seven appearances in Test matches for the Lions themselves.
What the Lions say:
Lions head coach Ian McGeechan
"I remember my debut against Western Transvaal at Potchefstroom in 1974 and it is a career highlight.
"For young men such as Keith Earls and Jamie Roberts Saturday will be a day to remember and they will be thrilled to get an early taste of match action on the tour.
"Following excellent preparation and a period of acclimatisation in South Africa I know the lads are raring to go on Saturday and they will be anxious to get the tour off to the best possible start."
Lions centre Jamie Roberts
"It will be tough in the altitude and heat, but we've been training hard and are looking forward to it.
"We've done quite a lot of analysis on their key individuals, but there's only so much you can do - it's about how we play as a team.
"It's a chance to stake a Test claim and we'll all be chomping at the bit."