Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu (L) with Quade Cooper (2/L), ARU CEO John O’Neill (2/R) and Gareth Delve (R)

Melbourne Rebels CEO, Steven Boland, has welcomed today’s announcement that will see Melbourne host two matches, including one of three Tests, when the British and Irish Lions make their long-awaited return to Australia in 2013.

The Lions visit Australia only once every 12 years, and will reignite a rivalry that exploded in 2001 when the Wallabies won a thrilling and sold-out series by two Tests to one.

On the 2013 Tour, the Lions will play nine matches around Australia, with two set down for Melbourne under a long-term agreement between the ARU and the Victorian Coalition Government, through the Victorian Major Events Corporation.

The five-year, five-event agreement, which includes a solid commitment and ongoing support for the development of Community Rugby activities in Victoria, starts in 2012 with the second Test against Wales at Etihad Stadium on Saturday 16 June. It continues with the two Lions tour matches in 2013, before a Test against France in 2014 and a Test against England in 2016.

The centrepiece of the agreement is the two Lions matches, with the Lions spending a week in Melbourne, playing the RaboDirect Rebels on Tuesday 25 June at AAMI Park.

Four days later the Lions will face the Qantas Wallabies in the Second Test at Etihad Stadium – the same venue for the corresponding Test back in 2001. RaboDirect Rebels CEO Steven Boland welcomed today’s announcement.

“We see this as another big step forward for Rugby Union in Melbourne. The Rebels enjoyed tremendous support from our members in 2011 and we are thrilled to attract games of this calibre for the local Rubgy Union community. The British and Irish Lions have an illustrious history, dating back to its first official tour in 1910 and we are honoured to be a part of this.

“The Lions always attract plenty of travelling supporters and they will be welcomed by our own Rebel Army at AAMI Park. I am sure our Members share our excitement,” Boland said.

Victorian Premier and RaboDirect Rebels patron, Ted Baillieu, said the tour was further recognition of Melbourne’s status as Australia’s sporting and major events capital.

“Melbourne loves rugby and I expect Victorian rugby supporters to turn out en masse for these games,” Mr Baillieu said. “Our fans are known for their passionate vocal support and this tour will be a hugely exciting event for rugby and for Melbourne and Victoria.

The full Lions Tour schedule is:
DATE                             MATCH                                                           CITY
Wednesday, 5 June       Lions v Western Force                                     Perth
Saturday, 8 June           Lions v Queensland Reds                                Brisbane
Wednesday, 12 June     Lions v Combined NSW-Qld Country             Newcastle
Saturday, 15 June         Lions v NSW Waratahs                                   Sydney
Tuesday, 18 June          Lions v Brumbies                                             Canberra
Saturday, 22 June         LIONS v QANTAS WALLABIES                    Brisbane
Tuesday, 25 June          Lions v Melbourne Rebels                               Melbourne
Saturday, 29 June         LIONS v QANTAS WALLABIES                    Melbourne
Saturday, 6 July             LIONS v QANTAS WALLABIES                    Sydney