Rugby: Ballot will be needed to watch Lions

By Kris Shannon

George North of the Lions. Photo / Getty Images.
George North of the Lions. Photo / Getty Images.

It's not quite a "once-in-a-generation series" for supporters but All Blacks fans will still have to hope fortune is on their side if they wish to watch the British & Irish Lions next year.

Marking a year until the tour kicks off, New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey today revealed tickets for the three tests would be made available to the public through a balloting system.

The 12th Lions tour to New Zealand will feature 10 matches against eight teams in five weeks, with the visitors facing clashes against a Provincial Barbarians XV - consisting of Mitre 10 Cup and Heartland Championship players - the Maori All Blacks, all five Super Rugby franchises and, of course, the main event.

Even with two tests at Eden Park - which can increase capacity to 60,000 - Impey said demand for the three All Blacks matches would be such that a ballot was needed to "make it as fair as possible" for Kiwis to attend.

Those measures were also necessary in 2005, when 20,000 touring fans visited these shores, and again implemented during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The 2017 Lions tour is shaping as the biggest sporting event in New Zealand since that showpiece and will certainly be the most-attended.

Almost 350,000 tickets will be sold to fans across the 10 games, with exact details of the purchasing process to be announced at the end of June before tickets are made available from October.

"We know demand to get to the games will be significant, and we're taking a measured approach to ticket prices to enable as many people as possible can experience the series," Impey said.

Kieran Read counted himself as lucky to likely be playing in the series rather than joining in the queues. The new All Black captain was a few years away from making his debut the last time the Lions were here and was initially unsure whether his career would span the 12-year gap between tours.

"I'm in that type of age where I could have missed both tours," he said. "This is a big reason why I'm still here - the Lions is one of those pinnacles in sport. If it crosses your career path, it's massive."

2017 British & Irish Lions tour
Provincial Barbarians - Saturday 3 June, Toll Stadium, Whangarei
Blues - Wednesday 7 June, Eden Park, Auckland
Crusaders - Saturday 10 June, AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Highlanders - Tuesday 13 June, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Maori All Blacks - Saturday 17 June, Rotorua National Stadium
Chiefs - Tuesday 20 June, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
All Blacks - Saturday 24 June, Eden Park, Auckland
Hurricanes - Tuesday 27 June, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
All Blacks - Saturday 1 July, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
All Blacks - Saturday 8 July, Eden Park, Auckland

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