The head of the ARU has described the last Lions tour to Australia as an extraordinary event after announcing the fixtures for the next trip Down Under.
ARU chief John O’Neil expects the 2013 tour to match the remarkable 2001 adventure in which the Lions and Wallabies fought out a nail-biting three-match series in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
The same three cities will host the international encounters and a provincial fixture in less than two years time, while Perth, Newcastle and Canberra will be home to three mid-week fixtures.
And with the first fully professional tour to Australia a decade ago making a long-lasting impression on the entire Australian rugby community and the Australian economy, O’Neil would love to witness a similar situation this time around.
“The Lions tour here in 2001 was an extraordinary event and one that provided significant economic benefit to those cities that hosted major matches,” said O’Neill.
“More than 8,000 Lions supporters came to Australia from the UK and Ireland on official tour packages and many more thousands made their own way here.
“Two years ago in South Africa, there were said to be 40,000 Lions fans that made the trek there to support their team.
“A Lions tour is a massive occasion. Behind the World Cup, it is the most high-profile, popular event our game can showcase.
“The last trip was a wonderful time and an unforgettable tour and 2013 promises to be even bigger and better.”
And while the 2001 tour featured three incredible Test matches and a mouth-watering standard of rugby, the commitment shown by the thousands upon thousands of travelling supporters left an equally indelible impression on O’Neill and his fellow Australians.
“Back in 2001, the feature of the First Test was the seas of Red as the Lions fans dressed en masse in the team’s colours to show their support,” added O’Neill.
“It is not just about the three Tests. It is about the hype and momentum a tour of six weeks develops.
“The tradition and history of the Lions continues with every tour they embark on to New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.
“As in 2001, we also expect demand for Lions tickets to be extraordinarily high. It will be a tour not to miss.”