The countdown to the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa may already have started, but as far as tour manager Gerald Davies is concerned it begins in earnest this week following the announcement of the coaching and management team.
Head coach Ian McGeechan will announce his back-room team for the tour in Dublin on Wednesday and Davies says it will be a significant step in the build up to the 10-match tour.
"In my eyes, everything starts to take shape from this week. Once Ian has announced his coaching team it is all systems go for the tour," said Davies.
"The players will know which eyes will be watching them, and who they need to impress, and Geech will be able to share his thoughts and battle plans with like-minded men.
"This is the launch pad for something we intend to be a major success story for British & Irish rugby.
Gerald Davies will travel to South Africa as the team manager for the 2009 Lions
"The biggest challenge facing the management team is to get everything to work in such a short space of time. We only have seven weeks together on tour, so it is vital that the preparatory work that we do ahead of meeting as a squad is spot on.
"Everyone, other than those who are involved in the Heineken Cup or European Challenge Cup finals, will gather in London on May 18 and we will all - including anyone involved in the two finals - leave for South Africa together on the night of May 24.
"We want to make it a special time for the players, management and fans. I want to try to create an atmosphere in which the Lions players are true competitors and are enjoying themselves as well.
"We won't be looking back at the way things were run on previous tours. People who went before us did things their way and did what they felt needed to be done.
"It is about what you believe the Lions stand for, what your objectives are and doing what needs to be done under the conditions. Because we are together for such a short period of time you don't get any second chances."
Davies and McGeechan are steeped in Lions tradition and have been part of some of the most successful tours in the history of the combined side. That's why they are determined to ensure the history and values of the Lions are firmly embedded in the minds of the players who make the tour party next summer.
"Having been fortunate enough to play for the Lions I know how special it is to be chosen - and then how magical it is to tour with players from the other nations," said Davies.
"The values that were there when I toured in 1968 and 1971 had been forged over many decades and many tours. Both Geech and I are determined to make those same values important to the players of 2009.
Gerald Davies toured with the Lions as a player in 1968 and here in 1971
"We know how challenging next summer's 10-game tour to the home of the reigning world champions is going to be. But we want the whole exercise to be successful, rewarding and enjoyable for everyone involved.
"The players will all be sharing rooms and will be mixing with each other. We want them all to contribute to the tour and not become isolated.
"Since the professional era dawned in the 1990s some people have questioned the value and meaning of the Lions. When I was appointed as manager I was curious to find our what the players and the fans felt about the concept of the Lions.
"The overwhelming view as expressed to me was that the players cherish and respect the concept of the Lions. Those who make the grade feel it is the pinnacle of their achievement, while those who fail to make it wish they had.
"As for the fans, they will be voting with their feet next summer - in their tens of thousands as they head to South Africa.
"What is also obvious is that the three southern hemisphere nations both want and need the Lions. Not just because of the magic of the fixtures and the history, but also because of the massive financial boost it gives to their game.
"Why on earth would anyone want to do away with something that is so special.
"The Lions is the big brand. The supporters are all part of the team and we want them to feel they have a role to play. They are as big ambassadors for British & Irish rugby as are the team and they can have a massive impact on their team through their support at matches."