For the first time in 20 years, the next Lions tour won’t feature the reigning World Champions.
New Zealand’s victory over Australia and Wales’ defeat to France in the semi-finals of the World Cup at the weekend means the 2013 trip Down Under will only include possible future global kings rather than current holders of that title.
The last time the World Champions weren’t involved in a Lions series was way back in 1993 when Britain and Ireland’s elite travelled to New Zealand two years after the All Blacks had lost their status to the Wallabies.
The four most recent trips to the southern hemisphere have all seen the William Webb Ellis holders involved in one way or another, either playing for or against the Lions.
In 1997, the Lions travelled to South Africa to take on a Springbok side who had marked their return to the international fold with a sensational World Cup victory on home soil in 1995. The world’s most famous touring team secured a stunning series success on that occasion but couldn’t quite match the feat when they faced 1999 World Cup winners Australia four years later.
In 2005, the Lions headed to New Zealand to face the No1 ranked team in the world but with a host of reigning World Champions among their own squad. England had become the first northern hemisphere side to conquer the globe in 2003 and Sir Clive Woodward selected 15 of those players in his party that went on to lose 3-0 to the All Blacks.
Last time out, in 2009, the Lions faced the World Cup winners for the third time since the start of the professional era as they headed back to South Africa. Sir Ian McGeechan’s men ran the Springboks close before falling to a heartbreaking 2-1 series defeat following narrow loses in the first and second Tests.
For more information on the 2013 tour to Australia, check out www.lionstour.com