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Some of the most ferocious games of rugby league have been the games between Australia and Great Britain. Always hotly contested, the rivalry between the 2 countries has been simmering now for nearly 100 years.
Since the very first series in 1908 (G.B, WON 2-DREW 1 ), the 2 countries have always given everything on the field, and then some. Even from its first inception, the Test matches have drawn huge crowds and each game is etched into the annals of Rugby Leagues history.
Remembering that the touring teams of those very early days had to endure very gruelling 6 week sea voyages and then quickly adjust to (in the tourists minds) very extreme weather conditions, these men often played 40 plus games whilst on a single tour.
Completely different to today's players who may be in the host country in less than 12 hours, have a lengthy period in which to acclimatize and then only end up playing 5-6 games.
Truly, the early tourists were a breed of exceptionally tough men. Although nobody is 100% sure of where the term originated, The Ashes have been contested since the early 1920's. Some schools of thought give the origin of the term to the cricket "ashes", which are just as hotly contested between Australia and Great Britain. Of course,with sporting rivalries running so high between the 2 countries, controversy was never far away. The famous "Rorkes Drift Test" at the S.C.G. in which Great Britain were reduced to 10 men,and WON, to win the series 2-1 will always be an inspiration to the British.Courage was the word of the day as the Brits went on to win 14-6. Another notable encounter was 2nd test in Brisbane of the 1932 tour. Known as the "Battle Of Brisbane", the Australian coach, Harry Sunderland is reportedly accused of going into the tourists dressing rooms before the game and insulting them. In the ensuing game the tourists were so enraged by the insult that the game degraded into a brutal affair where, at times, Australia were reduced to 11 men through either injury or sending off. Courageously, Australia held on to win the game 15-6, but unfortunately lost the series in the final test. Australians, being the race of people they are, do not forget these clashes easily and a certain amount of patriotic vengeance is a key element in their make up.
With another visit planned very shortly with a one off test to be played on the night of Friday,12th July, the British tourists will be keen to turn the tide of Australian victories over them of late. The last time the British won a test series on Australian soil was 32 years ago in 1970 in front of huge parochial crowds. This years Test looks certain to be a very torrid game with the forwards of both nations faster and fitter than ever before. At the moment we are blessed with some absolute super stars of the game on show for this encounter, Andrew Johns,(who is considered by some the games greatest) will be behind a champion pack. Darren Lockyer at the back will provide tremendous defence as well as his famous attack. Kieran Cunningham, for the tourists, is regarded as the best hooker in the modern game, will no doubt open up many attacking options for his pack of large but extremely mobile forwards. It looks set to be an absolute ripper.