Lions fever to hit Queenstown

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Get ready for British and Irish Lions fever, Queenstown.

Mountain Scene has it on good authority the rugby tourists – who last played in New Zealand 12 years ago, when they lost 3-0 – will hold a training camp in the resort in July, between the second and third Tests against the All Blacks.

They’ll bring a huge entourage of players, coaches and officials – as well as the usual phalanx of beer-swilling, rugby-mad fans.

But there’ll be careful management to avoid the alcohol-fuelled antics in the resort which killed the English rugby team’s 2011 World Cup campaign.

Particularly, that is, if the third Test, at Eden Park on July 8, is a decider.

It’s understood the Lions’ management cased out Queenstown a few months ago, staying at Matakauri Lodge.

Sky Sports rugby commentator Justin Marshall, who played against the Lions in 2005, says the series pits some of the best of Northern Hemisphere players against the two-time world champions.

“It’s something in rugby not to be missed because it’s such a rarity.”

A Lions visit is a coup for Queenstown.

“We’re incredibly lucky,” Marshall says.

“Queenstown is New Zealand’s number one tourist spot but it is a small venue – it’s not a city.”

Wakatipu Rugby Club president Phil Wilson says it’s news to him.

“I’m thrilled,” he says. “I didn’t know the team was coming here.

“I’m the president of the Wakatipu Rugby Club and I didn’t know that.”

Lions’ management couldn’t be reached for comment before deadline.

According to reports out of Britain, Kiwi head coach Warren Gatland expects players to observe a self-imposed 1am curfew, after which they can hit the hotel bar.

“It won’t be my call but I think the players might, say, go out for a couple of hours, no one is going to mind them having a couple of beers, come back to the hotel, be there at 1am, the bar is open if you want to have a few more beers or whatever,” he tells the Daily Mail

A Lions visit to the country’s biggest tourist mecca isn’t a surprise in some ways.

But it somewhat ignores the 2011 England rugby team’s ‘Mad Midget Weekender’, which distracted them from the World Cup and left a stain on their tour.

Most famously, Mike Tindall – who is married to the Queen’s grand-daughter Zara Phillips – was caught fraternising in a Queenstown bar with an old flame.

He was snared by a nightclub’s CCTV footage, which was controversially released by Queenstown doorman Jonathan Dixon.

Dixon was later convicted for taking the footage in a battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

david@scene.co.nz