Dates confirmed for Lions tour of Australia


The British and Irish Lions will play Test matches in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney when they tour Australia in 2013.

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) confirmed the schedule on Monday for the tour, which will be the representative team's first visit since their 2-1 series defeat to the Wallabies in 2001.

The Lions will play six tour matches in addition to the three Tests.

They begin the tour with a match against the Western Force in Perth on June 5, before taking on the Queensland Reds in Brisbane three days later.

A combined New South Wales-Queensland country team provide the opposition in Newcastle on June 12, followed by matches against the NSW Waratahs and ACT Brumbies in the following six days.

The first Test takes place at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on June 22.

The final tour match will be against the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park on June 25, followed by the second Test at Etihad Stadium three days later.

The tour concludes with the final Test at ANZ Stadium on July 6.

"The Lions tour here in 2001 was an extraordinary event and one which provided significant economic benefit to those cities which hosted major matches," ARU chief John O'Neill said.

"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."

Prior to their arrival in Australia, the Lions take on the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1.

Lions tour manager Andy Irvine said the announcement of the 2013 tour schedule marked a milestone in the team's history.

"Since 1888 when the Lions embarked on their first ever tour, which happened to be Australia, the famous red shirt has become an aspirational symbol of achievement for players in Britain and Ireland," he said.

"The Lions receive numerous requests to play matches around the world outside of the traditional tour destinations of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

"For 2013 we had the perfect opportunity to play a match in the developing rugby region of Asia, while at the same time break the long journey from Europe to Australia. As has become customary we also wanted 10 matches to maximise the essential pre-Test series build up.

"The last Lions tour to Australia in 2001 heralded the dawn of 'The Red Army' with tens of thousands of English, Irish, Scottish & Welsh tourists and ex-pats wearing the red jersey in support of the Lions.

"We look forward to another challenging tour to one of the world's most beautiful countries."

Lions chairman, Gerald Davies, said: "With the latest Rugby World Cup tournament completed, a major focus for the rugby world is now the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013.

"Lions tours are hugely popular and outside of Rugby World Cup represent one of the game's major showpieces, with global media coverage and ticket sales testament to their popularity."