Australian Rugby Union today confirmed NSW will host three matches – including the third and final Test – when the British and Irish Lions make their long-awaited return to Australia with a tour in 2013.
The Lions – selected from the best players in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Ireland – visit Australia only once every 12 years, and will reignite a rivalry that exploded in 2001 when the Wallabies won a thrilling and sold-out series by two Tests to one.
On the 2013 Tour, the Lions will play nine matches around Australia, with three set down for NSW that complements a long-term deal between the ARU and NSW Government through Destination NSW to play a Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney each year from 2012 to 2021.
The Lions will play a Combined NSW-Queensland Country team in Newcastle on Wednesday, 12 June. Country will be the only non-Super Rugby team afforded the opportunity of playing the Lions in their six additional matches outside the three-Test series.
The announcement that Ausgrid Stadium will host Game Three of the Lions tour follows the ARU decision earlier this year to stage a Wallabies Test against Scotland at the same venue on 5 June, 2012.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell said securing these matches over both 2012 and 2013 is an important part of building one of the world’s best events calendars.
“Sydney and NSW is Australia’s rugby heartland and the Lions deal we have struck ensures we have the best matches,” he said.
“Destination NSW estimates the Lions Tour and the Scotland Test will generate close to $50 million in new money for NSW.”
Three days after taking on Country, the Lions will play the NSW Waratahs at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The June 15 showdown will be the first time the Lions have met the Waratahs since the infamous and controversial clash of 2001 when NSW five-eighth Duncan McRae was castigated by the British media over a spat with Irish rival Ronan O’Gara.
The Lions will return to Sydney three weeks later for the third and final Test of the series – and the last game of the five-week tour – when they take on the Wallabies at ANZ Stadium.
The tour will open with a match against the Western Force in Perth on Wednesday, 5 June, and ends with the Third Test in Sydney on Saturday, 6 July.
The First Test will be played at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday, 22 June and the Second Test at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne on 29 June.
“The Lions tour here in 2001 was an extraordinary event and one which provided significant economic benefit to those cities which hosted major matches,” said ARU Managing Director and CEO John O’Neill AO.
“More than 8000 Lions supporters came to Australia from the UK and Ireland on official tour packages and many more thousands made their own way here.
“Four 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 Rugby World Cup it is the most engaging, high-profile and popular event our game can showcase.
“It is not just about the three Tests. It is about the hype and momentum a tour of six weeks develops.
“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.
“It was a wonderful time and an unforgettable tour and 2013 promises to be even bigger and better.
“The tradition and history of the Lions continues with every tour they embark on to New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.
“The Lions tour only once every four years, so they visit the big three Southern Hemisphere nations only once every 12 years.
“We’re delighted to bring three of those nine Lions tour matches to NSW in two years’ time.
“As in 2001, we also expect demand for Lions tickets to be extraordinarily high. It will be a tour not to miss.”
Before arriving in Australia for their nine-match Tour, the Lions will kick off their campaign with a match in Hong Kong against the Barbarians on Saturday, 1 June.
The full Lions Tour of Australia 2012 schedule is:
DATE MATCH CITY
Wednesday, 5 June Lions v Western Force Perth
Saturday, 8 June Lions v Queensland Reds Brisbane
Wednesday, 12 June Lions v Combined NSW-Qld Country Newcastle
Saturday, 15 June Lions v NSW Waratahs Sydney
Tuesday, 18 June Lions v Brumbies Canberra
Saturday, 22 June LIONS v WALLABIES Brisbane
Tuesday, 25 June Lions v Melbourne Rebels Melbourne
Saturday, 29 June LIONS v WALLABIES Melbourne
Saturday, 6 July LIONS v WALLABIES Sydney