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British and Irish Lions to face joint Australia-New Zealand side on 2025 tour

The British and Irish Lions will face a joint Australia-New Zealand side in an unofficial “fourth Test” on their 2025 tour, which will include matches against the Wallabies in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, it was announced Wednesday.

The clash against an “Anzac XV” in Adelaide will be part of a nine-game visit that will also see the Lions, with players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, take on all five Australian Super Rugby sides.

“The British and Irish Lions tour is one of the great sporting festivals — it is a real landmark of Australian and world sport,” said Rugby Australia chief and former Wallabies legend Phil Waugh.

“It is an exciting fixture of matches all around the country with the Lions taking on our Super Rugby franchises, three massive Test matches, and a marquee match in Adelaide featuring a combined invitational Australia-New Zealand side.”

The official announcement called the Anzac clash “something of a fourth Test”, but it remains to be seen how many All Blacks and Wallabies front up.

A combined Anzac team last played in 1989, when they lost 19-15 to the Lions at Ballymore in Brisbane, but it was mostly Australians with just three New Zealanders taking part.

The game fell between New Zealand Tests against Argentina, and All Blacks players made individual choices about whether they would risk injury and play.

Sydney’s Stadium Australia and the Melbourne Cricket Ground were locked in for Lions Tests under long-term funding agreements and there had been speculation that the Adelaide Oval could be awarded the third.

Instead, it will host the “Anzac XV”, with Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium preferred.

‘Never been stronger’

The Lions’ last tour saw them in South Africa during the Covid pandemic in 2021, losing two games of the three-match series under coach Warren Gatland when no fans were allowed in stadiums.

They only play Australia once every 12 years. When they last met in 2013, also a three-match series, the Lions won 2-1, also with New Zealander Gatland at the helm.

More than 40,000 fans are expected to travel to Australia for the next series, with Lions chief Ben Calveley confident it will build the brand even further.

“As we begin the countdown to Australia in 2025, the British and Irish Lions brand and organisation has never been stronger with a global fan base of some 14 million people,” he said.

“Our ambition is to further build upon this position and make this upcoming tour the greatest Lions tour ever, positioning it as the major global sporting event of 2025.”

Australia shares a long history with the Lions. Their first Test against a British Isles team was at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1899 on their first tour to Australia -– the home side won the opening match but lost the series.

The upcoming tour — part of the build-up to Australia hosting the men’s 2027 World Cup and the women’s version in 2029 — will start in Perth against Western Force on June 28 before they take on the Queensland Reds (July 2) and NSW Waratahs (July 5).

They will then head south to play the ACT Brumbies (July 9) in Canberra ahead of the Anzac clash on July 12.

The first Wallabies Test is in Brisbane on July 19, followed by a game against the Melbourne Rebels (July 22) ahead of the second Test in Melbourne (July 26) and the final Test in Sydney on August 2.

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