Is this the greatest British Lions series ever?

The British and Irish Lions tour of 2013 promises to be a close fought series against a strong Australian side.

The Lions

A British and Irish Lions tour comes around every four years and it remains one of the most highly anticipated events in the sports' calendar. The combined British side has endured some disappointing results recently, but this series against Australia looks to be a closely matched affair between two strong teams.

On the British Lions tour of 2009, the visitors went down by two tests to one against South Africa and were second best for most of that series. Prior to that, the Lions lost in 2005 by 3-0 to New Zealand and in 2001, the players on the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia suffered a 2-1 loss, for which they will be seeking revenge in 2013.

The schedule

A British Lions tour is a great spectacle and while the tests are the pinnacle of the series, there are some exciting provincial games ahead of the main event. The tour begins with a warm up match against the Barbarians on June 1st 2013 in Hong Kong and this could be one of the most thrilling games of the tour against a side who are renowned for their free flowing play.

Having arrived in Australia, the tour party tackles five more warm up games against provincial teams such as Western Force, the Queensland Reds and the ACT Brumbies, until the first test takes place in Brisbane on the 22nd of June.

A final warm up match is due to be played against the Melbourne Rebels before the final two tests are held in Melbourne and Sydney on the 29th of June and the 6th of July respectively.

It's a packed schedule but what are the Lions' chances of pulling off a series win?

The Australians

On home soil, Australia will be a strong force, but they have enjoyed a mixed set of results in recent months. In September 2012, they suffered a heavy, 31-8 defeat at the hands of South Africa before an embarrassing, 33-6 loss against a relatively weak French XV.

While they have been inconsistent, the Wallabies are also dangerous, as they proved when beating a powerful English unit by 20 points to 14 in November 2012.

Meanwhile, English rugby is strong and Wales retain the core of the team that performed so well in the 2011 World Cup. Ireland have returned some poor displays in the Six Nations but remain a formidable unit when they hit form and these three countries will provide the bulk of the players that will travel to Australia in June to July this year.

It could be argued that the home side are in their own transition period and while they have experienced some disappointing defeats on their travels, they remain a strong proposition on Australian soil. The visitors will be strong too and this promises to be one of the most thrilling and closely matched British and Irish Lions tours ever.

Clive Newell has been working as a rugby journalist for over thirty years and has covered every British Lions tour in that time. His work has been published on websites and printed magazines throughout his writing career.

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Is this the greatest British Lions series ever?