British & Irish Lions Tour of Australia
Test greats excited by Lions tour
ESPN Staff
July 27, 2012
Former Wallabies captain John Eales talks to the media, VISA Rugby Legends press conference, Sofitel Hotel, Paris, France, November 16, 2006
John Eales is eager to watch the Lion in action again © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Matt Burke | John Eales | George Gregan
Tournaments/Tours: British and Irish Lions tour

Wallabies Test legend John Eales believes the British and Irish Lions' 2013 tour will be the biggest rugby event in Australia since the 2003 World Cup.

Eales was joined by a host of former Test greats in Sydney on Friday as the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) unveiled the official logo, ticket prices and on-sale dates for next year's visit. The former lock wants Australia's current crop of Test players to savour the moment when they take on the Lions.

"The importance of a Lions tour, number one, is because of its scarcity," he said. "A lot of players go through their long careers and play a lot of Test matches and they don't have the opportunity to play against the British & Irish Lions.

"Two years before I started in Test rugby there was a series in 1989. In my last season of Test rugby the British & Irish Lions were back in Australia. I felt very fortunate to have had the chance to play them. It was motivation at the start for me and at the end, but for very different reasons."

The 2013 tour will be the Lions' third visit to Australia in 24 years, and their first since 2001. The tourists will take on the Wallabies in three Tests, as well as playing the five Australian Super Rugby franchises and a combined NSW-Queensland Country team during the visit next June and July.

The most capped Test player in rugby history, former Wallabies captain George Gregan, echoed Eales' sentiments about the importance of the tour.

"You get players knocking lumps out of each other from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and then all of a sudden in a short period they come together and play as one," Gregan said.

"The thing which binds them and brings them together is that Lions jersey. It's got a rich history and they get together really quickly and they work really hard for each other. The thing that unites them is that red jumper, they play for it and history shows that. The calibre of this team which is going to come out here next year is going to be fantastic and it's going to set up an epic series."

Former Australia fullback Matt Burke, who also played a starring role in the 2001 Wallabies side alongside Eales and Gregan, said it was the epitome of a northern hemisphere player's career to win a Lions cap.

"It just means so much to those guys if they can get chosen on a Lions tour, there's just plenty for those guys to play for," Burke said. "If they can represent the Lions it just puts them on another level, especially when you look back at history and the names who have played in the red jumper.

"I guess the closest we would get would be if you were to combine an Australian, New Zealand and South African team. That would be the next pinnacle for southern hemisphere rugby players."

Australia won the 2001 series two Tests to one, after dropping the first game in Brisbane. Twelve years earlier, the Lions triumphed two Tests to one. Tickets for the Lions' tour will go on-sale on February 18, 2013 for the three Tests and six other tour matches.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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