- Popular ESPNscrum fantasy rugby game returns alongside comprehensive online and mobile tour coverage
- On television, ESPN Classic looks back at classic matches from previous tours
ESPN today unveils plans for its extensive, multiplatform coverage of the British and Irish Lions’ tour of Australia. ESPNscrum, which serves rugby union fans with an informative and entertaining mix of news, live minute-by-minute match coverage and live scores, will combine with ESPN Classic to provide fans a comprehensive Lions line-up.
ESPN Classic will bring fans some great Lions action from previous years, including:
- 1974 “Invincibles”: The 1974 tour to South Africa, when the Lions earned the tag “Invincibles” after they went unbeaten, winning 21 of their 22 matches
- The 1997 tour to South Africa: The Lions’ first visit to the country since the end of Apartheid, and the first tour since rugby union turned professional
- The 2001 tour to Australia: The Lions’ last visit to Australia, which saw the Wallabies pick up their first ever series win, as the visitors were beset by tensions in the squad
- “Being a Lion”: will tell the story of what playing for the Lions is all about. Based on interviews with a number of legends, this will revisit the emotion of being selected and the pride in wearing the Lions’ colours,
- “The Lions’ Top Fives”: Compilation featuring the top tries, controversies and players Online and on mobile, ESPNscrum coverage of the tour will be led by assistant editor Tom Hamilton, who will be on the ground in Australia for the duration of the Lions’ tour, providing a mix of features, analysis and interviews in addition to a tour diary as the Lions look to win their first tour series since the visit to South Africa in 1997. This will be supported by ESPN’s London and Sydney-based rugby writers bringing fans team news, previews, live match coverage and analysis.
A host of podcasts and video content will feature on the site, including a discussion between ESPN rugby presenter Mark Durden-Smith and ESPN’s former Lion Austin Healey about the 2001 tour – the last time the Lions (including Healey) visited Australia.
Fans will also be able to test their rugby management skills against each other with the ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby – 2013 Tour Game. Readers will also get the chance to take part in an interactive poll to establish the nation’s favourite Lions players, tries, moments and coaches, with a new voting category announced each week during the tour.
ESPNscrum’s detailed match reports and updates will be accompanied by in-depth features discussing and dissecting the performances of the teams, while “where are they now?” articles will look back at the 1989 and 2001 Lions squads that toured Australia.
Ross Hair, Managing Director, ESPN, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: “The Lions tour only comes around once every four years, and we’ll be making the most of it with coverage online and on television. Fans will be able to keep up with all the latest news and updates from Down Under, and relive some of the great Lions moments from down the years.”
ESPN’s Austin Healey speaks to Mark Durden-Smith on the 2013 Lions Tour
Touring Australia, can you get away from the intensity of the situation?
‘The press make it very difficult and you have to ignore all that but in some ways it galvanises the squad. This squad is a strange squad; I think it hasn’t got a real spark. It hasn’t got a Christian Wade or a Jason Robinson. Warren Gatland has said ‘we are going to come there with some really big guys and you’re going to have to try and stop the British Bulldozer’.’
What is the best way to do it if you want to win a series in Australia?
‘I think the key is to keep energy high on the tour. You’ll have difficult times in midweek. You have got to keep that energy up and keep the competition for places high. If they do that this Lions squad have got the quality amongst them and the experience to take this slightly less experienced Australian side to the cleaners.’
Can the Lions replicate the 2001 first Test in Brisbane when there was a sea of red Lions supporters and Jason Robinson scored and the whole place came to life?
‘I think the Lions can win it, but I do think it’s going to go to that final Test, but maybe Justin Harrison winning a lineout in the very final seconds of the game can win it for Australia.’
What are your memories of touring Australia with the Lions?
‘I enjoyed the tour. I thought it was a very enjoyable tour in terms of the playing and the people you played with. What we had was a separation for the tour so Graham Henry had almost picked his tour squad, his first 15 before we got there and if you don’t have the competition, players lose interest. There was real separation, some people went their own way, but it was really the players that brought it back on track.’