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Rugby Union
British Lions Rugby Team before the second test against South Africa in 2009
The Lions haven't won a series since they toured South Africa in 1997

British & Irish Lions Tour, 2013

In this clash of the heavyweights there’s everything to play for as the British & Irish Lions roar into action, intent on breaking
their longest-ever stretch without a win.

Sixteen years have elapsed since the most famous rugby touring side, the British & Irish Lions, last won a Test series. That was in South Africa back in 1997. Warren Gatland, the Wales head coach, is the man tasked with breaking the voodoo in Australia this summer, and ending the ignominy of their longest-ever winless stretch in their 125-year history.

Read More: A Story of Greatness: the Rugby World Cup through the years

Severe pressure

Kiwi Gatland, whose Welsh team will be without him as they defend their RBS 6 Nations title this spring, should be quietly confident of his chances of taking the spoils Down Under, especially with England’s young side downing New Zealand before Christmas 2012. Robbie Deans, the Wallabies coach, is under severe pressure, and his side currently languish third in the International Rugby Board’s world rankings, behind the two other southern hemisphere heavyweights, the world champion All Blacks and South Africa.

Last year Deans’ side finished second in the inaugural four-team Rugby Championship, coming out on top in only three of their six games. Under closer inspection those victories were managed with winning margins no greater than a converted try (26-19 against South Africa in Perth; 23-19 versus Argentina on the Gold Coast; and 25-19 in Rosario). 

Read More: Interview with England Prop Andrew Sheridan

Narrow success

It was a similar story in the autumn where, after a 33-6 thrashing in Paris, they squeezed out narrow successes against England (20-14), Italy (22-19) and Wales (14-12). Some might say it demonstrated Australia’s ability to eek out results and, in his defence, Deans was without openside flanker and captain David Pocock and other long-term absentees.

Gatland, however, has warned it will be no pushover. ‘You can never underestimate Australia,’ he says. ‘When they’ve got their backs to the wall and are under a bit of pressure, they show their resolve and they find a way to get performances.’ Come July 6 he will hope that his Lions have performed best, though, and roared to a series victory to end their 16-year barren run. 

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