Happy hunting ground

The Qantas Wallabies may have an 81% success rate in Test matches at the Suncorp Stadium, but the British & Irish Lions have never lost an international in Brisbane. [more]

Happy hunting ground

The Qantas Wallabies may have an 81% success rate in Test matches at the Suncorp Stadium, but the British & Irish Lions have never lost an international in Brisbane.

Saturday’s opening game in the battle for the Tom Richards Trophy will see Sam Warburton’s men defend a seven-match unbeaten run in the city dating back to the first series against Australia in 1899.

The Lions hit back to win 11-0 at the Exhibition Ground in Brisbane on 22 July, 114 years ago, to square the series 1-1 in the second Test of the inaugural meeting before going on to win 3-1.

They were also convincing 29-13 victors in the opening Test of the 2001 series, in a game in which Brian O’Driscoll scored a sensational, solo try.

In 1966, Michael Campbell-Lamerton’s team notched a Lions record 31-0 scoreline to clinch the series 2-0 over the Wallabies, scoring five tries and 28 second half points.

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Australia v British & Irish Lions in Brisbane

1899: British & Irish Lions 11, Australia 0
1904: British & Irish Lions 17, Australia 3
1950: British & Irish Lions 19, Australia 6
1959: British & Irish Lions 17, Australia 6
1966: British & Irish Lions 31, Australia 0
1989: British & Irish Lions 19, Australia 12
2001: British & Irish Lions 29, Australia 13

SUNCORP STADIUM . . . DID YOU KNOW

Saturday night’s match will be the 22nd played by the Qantas Wallabies at what is now Suncorp Stadium. Australia have won 17 of the previous Tests (for an 81% success rate), lost three, and drew the most recent outing, 18-18 with New Zealand in last year’s third Bledisloe Cup Test. The All Blacks are the only team to have defeated the Wallabies at Suncorp, and all three games were close, with losing margins of seven, four and four points respectively.

Suncorp Stadium is one of four Test venues that have been used in Brisbane. The others are Ballymore, the Brisbane Exhibition Ground and the Woollongabba Ground, which is better known as the city’s venue for cricket. The latter was last used when the British & Irish Lions last toured in 2001. The visitors won that match but Australia bounced back to claim the series.

Ballymore, which has traditionally been the home of rugby in Queensland and provides the training base for Super Rugby’s Queensland Reds, last hosted a Test in 2000 when Australia beat Argentina 53-6.

Lang Park, as Suncorp was formerly known, was the scene of Australia’s record-breaking 76-0 demolition of England in 1998.

Suncorp Stadium is also the home venue for the Brisbane Broncos club in the National Rugby League and the Queensland Roar in football’s A-League competition.

The site of the ground was originally a cemetery, and then later a rubbish dump, before being re-zoned as a sporting precinct. Lang Park became the headquarters for Queensland rugby league in 1957. It was named for the late Reverend John Dunmore Lang who had established the original cemetery on the site in 1840, and was a leading proponent for republicanism in Australian society of his time.

Lang Park hosted its first rugby league match in 1958. Its first rugby union international came seven years later in 1965, when Australia beat South Africa 12-8, although it did not become a regular union venue until 31 years later when Tri-Nations matches were held at the ground due to its greater capacity than Ballymore.

The redevelopment into the venue we see today occurred between 2001 and 2003, being completed in time for the stadium to play a major part in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

AUSTRALIA vs THE LIONS . . . HISTORICAL NOTES

Australia vs The Lions

Saturday’s game will be the 21st Test played between the two sides since the inaugural game, which Australia won 13 points to three at the Sydney Cricket Ground, on the 1899 tour.

To date, the British & Irish Lions teams have won 15 matches and Australia five from the eight previous tours by combined British and Irish sides.

In five of those 15 defeats, Australia were held scoreless.

Australia have never beaten the British & Irish Lions in Brisbane, with the touring team winning seven straight since the first game in the city resulted in a 11-0 success for the visitors of 1899.

The Lions’ 29-13 success in the opening Test of 2001 did not lead to a series victory, with Australia recovering to win the final two games in Melbourne and Sydney.

Likewise in 1989, the first Test failed to determine the overall series outcome, with the Lions rallying after being out-played 12-30 by the Wallabies in the opening match, to win the second and third Tests.

The Lions’ return to play a Test at Suncorp Stadium for the first time since beating Australia 31-0 in the second Test of the 1966 series at Lang Park, as it was then known. Subsequently the Lions played Tests at Ballymore (1989) and the ‘Gabba ground (2001), having played Australia at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground on tours prior to 1966.

Adam Ashley-Cooper will become the seventh different centre to have opposed Brian O’Driscoll in the 12 Tests that the former British & Irish Lions and Ireland captain has played against Australia, which includes the 2001 Lions tour opener in Brisbane.

O’Driscoll, who will play his 132nd Test – just seven short of the world record held by Australia’s George Gregan – has previously been marked by Daniel Herbert and Stirling Mortlock (three times each), Rob Horne (twice), Lote Tuqiri, Matthew Burke and Digby Ioane.

Referee Notes – Chris Pollock (New Zealand)

Age:40
Test debut: 2005
Tests: 11

This will represent just the third time Chris Pollock has officiated in a Test match involving Australia.

The Wallabies are unbeaten under the New Zealander’s charge to date, having defeated South Africa 39-20 at ANZ Stadium in 2011 when first encountering him, and then prevailing 25-23 during a thrilling finish to the series-deciding Test against Wales in Melbourne last year.

A professional referee for over a decade, Pollock took control of his maiden first class match in 2000, and his first Test in 2005. He made his debut in Super Rugby the following year and surpassed 50 matches in that tournament this season.

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