Wallaby head coach Robbie Deans has had his biggest wish granted after it was announced that his best players will be in camp three weeks’ prior to the start of the Lions series.
Deans had spoken regularly about the importance of bringing his squad together at the beginning of June as they get set for three successive Tests against Britain and Ireland’s elite in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
His request had been met with widespread criticism from the Super XV franchises who had hoped to have their star names available for domestic action and for their own clashes with the Lions.
Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver admitted earlier this week that consensus on the issue was unlikely but he has now confirmed thata squad of 25 players will go into camp from June 2 in an attempt to maximise the Wallabies’ chances of success.
The nominated players will be unavailable for their Super Rugby teams' matches against the Lions in the lead up to the three-Test showdown which kicks off at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, June 22.
"There is no doubt from an Australian Rugby perspective that when the Lions come to Australia for their nine-match tour from June 5 to July 6 the primary objective is for the Wallabies to win the three-Test series and preparation is crucial," said Pulver.
"The Lions will be battle hardened, make no mistake. Their players are currently involved in the RBS 6 Nations Championship in Europe. They will also have a match in Hong Kong en route to Australia and five lead-up games to the first Test.
"A tour of this magnitude provides the opportunity to expose a wide group of players across the country to international rugby. That is great for the players, and the game in Australia."
Decisions on player release for Super Rugby local derbies – Brumbies v Rebels on June 7 and Waratahs v Force on June 9 – will be made at a later date, with Pulver stating that availability may depend on the impact those matches will have on the race for the play-offs.
"If those Super Rugby matches have significant bearing on the competition standings, and finals spots are at stake, ARU will take that under serious consideration," added Pulver.
The initial 25-man Wallaby squad will have additional players added on June 10, following those two Super Rugby local derbies.
The three-week preparation window shares similarities with the Lions’ last visit to Australia in 2001 when big-name Wallabies missed the tourists’ warm-up games with the Waratahs and Brumbies.
The Wallabies went on to win that series 2-1, although the Lions did get off to a fine start by claiming the opening rubber at The Gabba.