Rugby-Wallabies keen to prevent repeat of 'Sea of Red'

BRISBANE, June 21 Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:23am BST

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BRISBANE, June 21 (Reuters) - Australia captain James Horwill has implored Wallabies fans to come to Lang Park dressed in gold on Saturday and prevent a repeat of the 2001 British and Irish Lions test when visiting fans famously created a 'Sea of Red' in Brisbane.

The 2001 test, which the tourists won before going on to lose the series 2-1, was played at the Gabba cricket ground and Brian O'Driscoll recalled on Friday how the predominance of Lions fans had helped drive the team to victory.

"It generally felt that day like a home game," the Irish centre said.

"We just didn't even think that was a possibility but when we ran out, it literally felt like three-quarters red.

"It gives us an extra pep in your step and gives you an added incentive when you know they are roaring you on."

Saturday's match will be played at Lang Park, which Australia have made a fortress in recent years with only one defeat in their last 10 tests.

The 52,500-capacity stadium is also home to Horwill's Queensland Reds, who won 2011 Super Rugby title in a dramatic final against the Canterbury Crusaders at the ground.

The Brisbane crowds have developed a reputation for passionate support and Horwill said it could be a factor in deciding who wins the first test on Saturday.

"It can have an impact, the fans get right behind us and that's why it's so special and we're hoping all the Aussie fans are wearing their gold tomorrow night and we don't see that sea of red from 2001," he said.

"I think that caught some of the guys by surprise last time and we're very aware of the travelling support the Lions do have and they're very vocal and passionate.

"I think here in Queensland, our supporters are equally as passionate so we're looking forward to them coming out in the gold and drowning out the Lions supporters."

'GOLD GLORY'

Australia hooker Stephen Moore said the Wallabies had been talking to some of the players who faced the tourists in 2001 and they had impressed upon the 2013 side how intense the match had been.

"I think that was the first time Australian fans had seen that kind of thing for a long time, as far as that sea of red was concerned," he said.

"Just from speaking to players who were involved, they were really taken aback by it.

"And you're talking of players who had already won World Cup and plenty of big matches. The intensity of the game was massive and I think tomorrow's going to be the same."

The Lions have never lost a test in Brisbane and judging by the number of British and Irish visitors clad in red shirts on the streets of the Queensland capital on Friday, it will not be easy to drown them out.

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) have pitched in and will distribute 15,000 gold "lion-hunting pith helmets" to Wallabies fans before the match.

"Australia was caught unawares in 2001," said ARU President Bill Pulver. "We don't want a repeat of that here in 2013.

"We want our fans turning up to the tests in all their gold glory and, to assist that cause, we will be handing out the safari hats."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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