Australia already excited

In exactly a year's time, the Lions will be kicking off their 2013 tour of Australia in Perth and the host nation can't wait to get started. [more]

Australia already excited

In exactly a year’s time, the Lions will be kicking off their 2013 tour of Australia in Perth and the host nation can’t wait to get started.

With the 10-match adventure beginning in Hong Kong on June 1, Britain and Ireland’s elite play their first match Down Under four days later.

Patersons Stadium in the Garden City has the honour of hosting the Lions versus Western Force as chairman Andy Irvine’s tourists build towards a three-Test series with the reigning Tri Nations Champions.

Excitement is building on these shores, with supporters and journalists alike already debating who should and shouldn’t be on the plane next May, and Australian Rugby Union managing director and CEO John O’Neill insists that attitude is being mirrored in Wallaby country.

“The British & Irish Lions tour to Australia next year will be massive,” said O’Neill.

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“Behind the Rugby World Cup, there is no bigger event in international rugby.

“The Lions are steeped in history and they are coming here to play nine matches, including three Tests – and they will kick off their tour in Perth against the Western Force on June 5, 2013.

“When they were last here in 2001, the Lions brought with them their Sea of Red. It was a supporter base of the like we have never seen in this country.

“Their Lions supporters were extremely vocal, singing and chanting throughout the Test. Their passion was infectious.

“The first Test at the Gabba in Brisbane was phenomenal – and red was the dominant colour in the grandstands.

“ARU moved quickly to ensure that didn’t happen again for the remainder of the Test series. We started a ‘Be Bold Wear Gold’ campaign for the second and third Tests and Australians responded magnificently.

“That tour was unforgettable and the Wallabies won it by two Tests to one. We expect the 2013 Tour to be even bigger and better.

“This will be a sporting event you don’t want to miss. The Lions come here just once every 12 years; they embark on a full-scale tour; they bring a massive army of fans with them. And in 2013 it all starts in Perth.”

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The Wallabies edged the last series between the two teams back in 2001

The Lions will play all five Australian Super Rugby clubs – the Force, Reds, Waratahs, Brumbies and Rebels – along with a combined NSW-Queensland Country team and three Test matches in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

“It’s a series that is already highly anticipated,” said Lions tour manager and former Scotland and Lions fullback Irvine, who is currently in Australia as part of the preparations for the 2013 visit.

“Our plan is to ensure we are completely prepared for the tour and that we put in place an environment that will mean the Lions have every opportunity to be successful next year.

“It’s just fantastic that the Lions concept has stood the test of time, taken on and embraced the professional era and emerged stronger and more popular than ever.

“The level of support the Lions enjoy from their fans is unprecedented and the Lions are probably the best supported team in world rugby.

“It’s a unique concept in world sport and one hell of a challenge, one that sees a combined team playing against some of the strongest teams in the world every four years on a tour away from home. Yet the players cherish the opportunity and those selected consider it the ultimate accolade in their playing career.

“The Lions are a very proud team with a unique ethos and a wonderful history. The famous red shirt is synonymous with a challenge and in 2013 that challenge is Australia and the Wallabies, one of the best teams in world rugby.

“But it is a challenge that the players relish and one they will look forward to.”

For the full list of Lions fixtures, please click here

The Lions in Perth

The Lions have played just four fixtures in Perth despite taking part in more than 100 in Australia across 11 tours.

Perth didn’t host a Lions match on any of the first four adventures, with the city’s residents having to wait until 1930 for their first glimpse of the travellers.

The Lions reappeared in the Garden City just once in the next 58 years, with a solitary game in 1966 the only action prior to the 1989 tour.

Perth has featured on the two most recent Lions tours to Australia, however, with the city staging the opening fixtures in both ’89 and 2001.

All four games in Perth have been against a Western Australia side that has been totally outclassed on each occasion but the Lions may not have it all their own way next time out. The emergence of Western Force as a fourth Australian Super 15 franchise means that the 2013 fixture should provide a far stiffer proposition than on previous tours.

P 4 W 4

1888, 1899, 1904, 1908, 1950, 1959, 1971 no fixtures

1930: Western Australia 3 Lions 71

1966: Western Australia 3 Lions 60

1989: Western Australia 0 Lions 44

2001: Western Australia 10 Lions 116

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The Lions bagged a century of points on their last visit to Perth

The opposition: who are the Western Force?

Western Force followed the Reds, Waratahs and Brumbies in joining the Super Rugby ranks in 2006. The franchise made their competitive debut in February of that year, losing 25-10 to the Brumbies and unsurprisingly finishing bottom of the table.

In the five full seasons of Super Rugby that have followed, the Force have compiled three mid-table showings, ending in eighth in 2008 and 2009 and seventh in 2007.

The 2010 and 2011 seasons saw the side finish 13th and 12th respectively but in the last campaign they did perform better than Australian rivals the Brumbies and Rebels.

This season hasn’t been too kind to the Force, who currently sit in 13th spot and are lagging behind each of their national counterparts in the Australian Conference. However, they are just two points behind the Rebels and three points adrift of the Waratahs and have a game in hand on the latter.

Losing boss Richard Graham to the Reds was a bitter blow midway through the season, with the former Bath and Saracens coach leaving his post with immediate effect after initially planning to stay on until the end of the tournament.

Ex-Ireland supremo Eddie O’Sullivan is among those being linked with a coaching role next season, as is Bath old boy Steve Meehan and the man who led Leinster to their first Heineken Cup crown, Michael Cheika.

Openside flanker David Pocock is the standout name at the franchise – although his contract runs out at the end of this year – while players like Ben McCalman, Salesi Ma'afu and Pek Cowan could well face the Lions with both the Force and the Wallabies.

Veteran second row Nathan Sharpe is ‘Mr Western Force’ but he plans to retire before the Lions come calling and former fans favourite James O’connor moved to Melbourne prior to the start of this term.

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