Rugby world eagerly awaits the Lions tour of Australia
THE long-awaited selection of the 37 British and Irish Lions players has finally been announced.
It has certainly focused everyone's attention on their trip to Hong Kong and Australia.
I know it has for me, and brought back some wonderful memories.
And I think it is no coincidence that the form of the Aussie Super Rugby teams has risen significantly this year.
Having the Lions tour in 2013 has focused minds and driven desire and performance across Aussie Super Rugby.
Our squads have an eight-three winning record over Super Rugby-leading Kiwi teams, for example.
Playing the BILs
The opportunity to play against the BILs has been on many people's minds for some time now - most significantly, administrators, marketers, coaches and players.
I know for a fact that many professional players have structured their contracts around playing against the Lions.
It is, as we know, a once-in-every-twelve-year opportunity.
But it's not only at the top level - many country-based players have also had this tour on their radar because of the potential to play in the Lions tour game against a combined QLD/NSW country team in Newcastle on June 11.
That's another reason why I'm very excited by the structure of the Lions visit.
It's a true tour, taking in the major cities and teams, and offers the country a go in the biggest thing to hit this country in 12 years. And that's good for the code, right across the country.
So, what will it be like playing against the BILs?
In a recent interview, Wallaby coach Dingo Deans, offered: "The best insight we had of what it's going to be like was that final Six Nations fixture. It was brutal, relentless for 80 minutes," Deans said.
And I most definitely agree.
As I've mentioned briefly before, I was lucky enough to play against the BILs on their 1989 tour.
Queensland played them in a close loss (15, 12). And I remember it to this day.
It is a career experience I cherish as a true test of my ability and that of my fellow Reds' players.
I finished the game with 15 stiches across my right eye (a scar that is still visible to this day), and just laid in the shed for hours after the game, unable to move due to fatigue and pain. It was simply the most oppressive, tiring, brutal, and exhausting 80 minutes of my career.
I played against all major rugby nations, whether for Queensland or the Wallabies, toured NZ with the Wallabies even (a very tough examination of one's mental and physical capabilities), and nothing came close to that afternoon at Ballymore in 1998.
The guys should be careful what they wish for!
Only joking, of course.
I remember during the game, at around the 30-minute mark of the first half, just thinking "this is bloody awesome, it doesn't get much better that this!"
For the players lucky enough to get the chance, win, lose or draw, it will be the toughest test of their individual and collective ability and a wonderful career experience they will never forget.