There is something about the British & Irish Lions team that captures the hearts of both rugby and wider sports fans, thanks to the team’s incredible heritage and the magical experience of watching them play. The team tours every four years and is made up of the cream of the rugby crop from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales who are all bonded together by that patriotic red jersey that has long been a recognisable symbol of Lions Pride.
The British & Irish Lions team has roots that stretch right back to the late 1800s, almost to the point at which the game of rugby was invented (which is widely believed to be between 1816 to 1825 when William Webb Ellis, a pupil at Rugby school, picked up and ran with the ball). The very first tour saw Northern Hemisphere teams taking on Southern Hemisphere, pitting the UK side against Australia and New Zealand, with the Lions winning 27 out of 35 games played against provincial, city and academic opponent teams. After that the tour was expanded to South Africa and, before World War II commenced, to Argentina. Over the years the team has seen mixed fortunes, with the biggest win in 2001 where the team won 116-10 against Western Australia, and the biggest defeat in 1983 losing 6-38 to New Zealand. In a total of 609 appearances, the British & Irish Lions have enjoyed 451 wins, 32 draws and 126 losses, some pretty impressive statistics by anyone’s calculations.
In the summer of 2013 the team is travelling to Australia for a test series that is one of the most anticipated in history and which has been in the making for 12 years. Commentators are predicting that the nine games, including three tests, will see the Southern Hemisphere sides keen to redress the balance after that huge defeat to the Lions in 2001. The Lions team was announced today with some surprise for many that neither Jonny Wilkinson or Chris Robshaw were included – and that without Wilkinson there was no provision for a third fly half. However, despite this most of those in the know are predicting potential victory for the Lions team, led by Sam Warburton and featuring players such as Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Tom Croft (England) and Matt Stevens (England).
Former Australia coach John Connolly believes that the Wallabies might well be rather rusty going into this year’s tour but has said that the secret to their strength will be Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper at outside-half and Will Genia, who many consider to be the world’s leading scrum-half. However, the Lions remain firm favourites and very strong in the tight five, and the question is whether their opponents will simply not win enough ball to give them a shot at coming out victorious.
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