2013 British & Irish Lions Tour
Irvine wary of 'exciting' Wallabies
November 28, 2011
Lions tour manager Andy Irvine is expecting another memorable tour to Australia in 2013 © Getty Images
Tour manager Andy Irvine is looking forward to tackling "the most exciting" side in world rugby when the British & Irish Lions head to Australia in 2013.
Speaking at the confirmation of the Lions' 10-match schedule, that will include a one-off clash with the Barbarians in Hong Kong and a three-Test series with the Wallabies, Irvine heaped praise on their hosts and set the scene for a mouth-watering tour.
"It is fair to say that we are forecasting a very tough and demanding tour. In 2009 when we visited South Africa we took on the world champions. In 2013, Australia will not be the world champions but at the moment they are the champions of the Tri-Nations and the Queensland Reds are the champions of the Super 15.
"Australia have got some fantastic young players and I am slightly concerned that by 2013 they might well be at their peak. Having said that, we also have some great talent coming through and I was hugely encouraged by the number of players from the UK & Ireland who developed during the recent Rugby World Cup.
"I am not only expecting a competitive tour I also sure we will see a great spectacle. To me, of all the teams playing international rugby right now, Australia are by far and away the most exciting. In the modern game, we often see defences on top, the midfield congested and if there is any team that can make line breaks then it is the Australians.
"What I love about their game is that they take risks. I'm not sure you will find all that they do in the coaching manual, but one thing for sure is that it is exciting to watch."
The Lions will tackle all five Super Rugby franchises with the tour culminating in Test clashes against Australia in Brisbane (June 22), Melbourne (June 29) and Sydney (July 6). Lions officials fully expect in the region of 30,000 fans to follow the Lions to Australia with their official travel provider having already received 26,000 pre-registrations in the last few months. The large ex-pat community is set to bolster their ranks to nearer 50,000.
"In 2009 it is estimated we had nearly 30,000 followers from the UK and in 2013 we hope to see that trend continue," added Irvine. "There is no doubt that economically things are still difficult right now but we are still confident we will see a huge support following us from the UK and Ireland."
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.