Last time I checked it's 327 days, 18 hours and 11 minutes until the arguably biggest rugby franchise gets under way and the British and Irish Lions head to face world champions South Africa.
Finally it's happening again, that few months every four years when the English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh all put aside their respective heated rivalries and club together to support a conglomeration of the best players that the home nations have to offer and cheer in unison for the legendary British and Irish Lions. I personally love the Lions, even under the scrutiny of selection and arguable bias based on the origin of the coaching staff the Lions is a rugby event.
I'm sure I am not the only one who was fairly disgusted when after the disastrous tour to New Zealand in 2005 (ending in the tourists being destroyed by an All Blacks team that were quite frankly unbeatable) the home nations considered disbanding the franchise due to it being a money pit of sorts. Though the bigger matches of that tour were embarrassing the atmosphere appeared to be amazing, I was so envious of those who followed the players to the opposite side of the planet. These points completely ignore the money that was raked in through tourism ticket sales and sale of merchandise in the British Isles and New Zealand.
But to the point, so far the preparations for the 2009 tour seem to be going the right way. The two deciding figures in how the squad performs in South Africa have been selected with the Welsh legend Gerald Davies being selected to be the Tour Manager and Ian "Geech" McGeechan the Scot working with London Wasps and the Lions squad of 1997 being selected as Head Coach for the tour. This is a great decision, Geech knows how to get the lions done, 1997 was the last successful tour for the home nations where they beat Australia 2-1 in the 3 test series.
Recently announced for the aid of the lions is that the Guinness Premiership's final will be played on the 16th of May, this means that there will not be conflict with premiership fixtures in England at least, it would not be foolish to hope the other unions adopt a similar allowance considering the special circumstances, here's hoping.
Here is the announced tour schedule:
Sat 30th May-Royal Bafokeng- vs Highfield XV
Wed 3rd June-Ellis Park, Johannesburg- vs Golden Lions
Sat 6th June-Vodacom Park- vs Cheetahs
Wed 10th June-ABSA Stadium, Durban- vs Sharks
Sat 13th June-Newlands, Cape Town- vs Western Province
16th/17th June-Port Elizabeth- vs Coastal XV
Sat 20th June-ABSA Stadium, Durban- vs Springboks 1st XV
Tues 23rd June-Newlands, Cape Town- vs Emerging Springboks
Sat 27th June-Loftus Versfeld- vs Springboks 1st XV
Sat 4th July-Ellis Park, Johannesburg- vs Springboks 1st XV
The entire country of South Africa must be licking their lips in anticipation of the tourists landing in 327 days.
Also as I enjoy doing here is a British and Irish Lions 22 of my own choosing:
1-Andrew Sheridan (England), 2-Ross Ford (Scotland), 3-John Hayes (Ireland)
4-Paul O'Connel (Ireland-Captain), 5-Nathan Hines (Scotland)
6-James Haskell (England), 7-Tom Rees (England), 8-Ryan Jones (Wales-Vice Captain)
9-Eoin Reddan (Ireland), 10-Danny Cipriani (England)
11-Shane Williams (Wales), 12-Gavin Henson (Wales), 13-Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland), 14-Paul Sackey (England)
15-Matthew Tait (England)
16-Jerry Flannery (Ireland), 17-Matt Stevens (England), 18-Ian Gough (Wales), 19-Jordan Crane (England), 20-Mike Blair (Scotland), 21-James Hook (Wales), 22-Shane Horgan (Ireland)
Lets see how close to the test squad I get come the 20th June 2009.
Bring on the lions, we all eagerly await the training squad and the release of the new kit, I know I do at least.