The looming presence of the Lions is already adding to the anticipation surrounding the new Super XV season according to Australian Rugby’s top dog.
Britain and Ireland’s elite head Down Under via Hong Kong in early June, with all five Australian franchises gearing up to try and secure a famous scalp in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
And while the southern hemisphere’s premier club competition was the talk of the town at today’s Super XV launch, the Lions were at the top of the agenda for new Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver.
“With the Lions touring our shores this year there is certainly an added element of excitement surrounding Super Rugby in 2013,” said Pulver, who took over from John O’Neill last month.
“On top of 11 local derbies in the first 10 rounds and 20 over the course of the season, our Australian Super Rugby sides will have the chance to tackle the best of the best from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
“The last time the Lions toured in 2001 the Rebels and the Force didn’t exist, which adds an even greater element of precedent and excitement to the upcoming season.”
Pulver has high hopes for the coming campaign but he admits improvements have to be made after a disappointing season in 2012.
The Reds were the only Aussie side to reach the knockout stages last time out but even they finished with a lower points total than five South African and New Zealand-based outfits.
The Brumbies were next in line with the same number of points as the Reds and a seventh-placed finish, while the Waratahs, Rebels and Force occupied three of the bottom five spots in the standings.
"Last year we came third, seventh, 11th, 13th and 14th, and frankly that's not good enough," said Pulver on the eve of the new Super Rugby season.
"I would love to think one of our teams is going to win the competition and that all of them get inside the top 10.
“Last year we saw the Reds qualify for the finals as defending champions. Hopefully this year we will see all five of Australian sides step up another gear with one of them bringing the Super Rugby Championship trophy back to Australia.
“It feels like (the season has) been a long time coming. I think our five teams are very well advanced in their preparations and I'm looking forward to a really successful season."
The new Super Rugby season kicks off in Melbourne on Friday night when the Rebels play host to the Force, while the Reds head to the capital to take on the Brumbies a day later.