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By Robbie Deans
It's a testament to the rarity of the honour that last year's Wallabies skipper Nathan Sharpe, who ended his career as the most capped Australian forward of all time, NEVER received the privilege of representing his country against the British & Irish Lions.
Likewise, former two-time World Cup-winning hooker Phil Kearns. Kearns, who attended three World Cups, achieved almost everything it was possible to achieve in the gold jumper, EXCEPT playing the Lions.
So it's a once-in-a-career opportunity. It's also an experience the whole rugby community, and the wider Australian public at large, will get to share in.
For the players, the privilege extends beyond the Test group.
The six additional tour matches provide the opportunity for all our professional players to have a crack at the tourists, as will the pride of country rugby in the combined Queensland-NSW Country team.
The states will be well served too.
One of the realities of last year's difficult circumstance, which saw 41 players appear for Australia in Test matches while a further 11 were selected but didn't take the field, was a large group received exposure in the Wallaby environment.
That experience will serve not only the Wallabies well, in terms of competition for places; it will also enhance the states as it provides a wider group of players who have an international background.
That can only be beneficial for what is coming at them when they face the Lions.
Why are the Lions so special?
They are unique, not just in a rugby sense, but almost universally in the world of international professional sport.
No other international sporting outfit draws together participants from four different and very diverse nations on a regular basis, as the Lions do on their four-yearly cycle.
Then there are the fans.
Not even the English cricket team, through its famed Barmy Army, can gather the numbers to match those who follow the Lions.
As they were in 2001, Australian stadiums will be a sea of red. The fun, frivolity and friendly banter provided by the large travelling supporter base has almost become as much a part of the Lions as have the games themselves - and nowhere is immune.
On behalf the 2013 Wallabies, I urge you to get to the grounds, wear gold and get behind your team. It really will make a huge difference.
The Lions make-up provides a fascinating challenge, but also a great opportunity for the coach and his support staff. Much is invested in bringing the squad together.
In this instance, Lions coach Warren Gatland has sat out the Six Nations, handing his Wales job over to one of his Lions deputies, Rob Howley, so that he can focus exclusively on Lions preparations.
It's a move that will undoubtedly help him and Lions tour manager, the former great Scottish and British Lions fullback Andy Irvine, bring the team together.
Gatland has history, having been on the backroom staff of the last two Lions tours. He's seen what works, and what doesn't, and will bring that knowledge forward.
Irvine will be invaluable.
Not only was he highly respected as a player for Scotland, he is a multiple Lions tourist as a player so knows the environment inside out.
I'm sure both Gatland and Irvine will be excited by what they have seen to date from the Six Nations.
The competition has been fierce, undoubtedly receiving extra impetus from the Lions tour, on which I would expect players like the England pair of flyhalf Owen Farrell and centre Manu Tuilagi to provide a formidable challenge.
Irish veteran Brian O'Driscoll, a star in 2001, and now looming as a certainty for his fourth Lions ticket, could also have a big impact.
Knowing Warren, he will surely seize on the emotion that will play a part with O'Driscoll, as the farewell involvement for one of the great players of the world game.
As gifted as he is, O'Driscoll has been fortunate.
For most, the Lions is a once-in-a-life-time experience.
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