A IS FOR ARMY
As in Red Army. About 40,000 fans will make the pilgrimage Down Under. Some will be wearing kilts, others will have the St George Cross painted on their face, most will be suitable lubricated, all will be in full voice.
B IS FOR BRITANNIA
Rule Britannia, that is. A little ditty the Brits like to belt out in times of triumph. Unfortunately for the Lions there have not been too many of late. Their last series win was over South Africa in 1997. That was 16 years and four tours ago. Current captain Sam Warburton was eight.Spice Up Your Life, by The Spice Girls was the No.1 song.
C IS FOR CATT
Lewie not Mike. The Wanderers centre is one of two Novocastrians alongside Dylan Evans in the Combined Country side. He shares the same position and last name as the former Lions centre but is not related. Nor does he want to repeat Catt's impersonation of a speed hump when he tried to tackle a runaway Jonah Lomu at the 1995 World Cup. Look it up on YouTube. Last check it had 4,455,449 views.
D IS FOR DOOLAN, DEMPSEY, DONAGHY, DARCY, DONOHOE
Warning: if you encounter anyone boasting these surnames or similar avoid getting into a shout. They invariably have a Guinness in hand and don't stop at one. The craic will be great but the hangover could remain for the rest of the tour.
E IS FOR ENGLAND
The mother country. Once provided the majority of the Lions. Martin Johnson, who led two Lions tours, hoisted the Webb Ellis Cup on the back of a Jonny Wilkinson field goal at Stadium Australia in 2003. That was a decade ago. The Spice Girls are a chance of reforming before they claim the World Cup again.
F IS FOR FRONT-ROW
The engine room and place where the Lions will aim to assert their authority early. Easily recognised by their cauliflower ears, lack of a noticeable neck and tape around their melon. Normally found at the bottom of a ruck, cleaning out or in close proximity to the bar. Unlikely to win a bachelor of the year contest but will be key to a Lions victory.
G IS FOR GUINNESS
The preferred beverage of most tourists, especially those sporting red hair. Always ordered in pints, some like to draw pictures in the head, women often add a nip of raspberry - a practice that should be avoided by all men. Connoisseurs could struggle to find a decent one in Newcastle. Best bets are the Northern Star and Finnegans.
H IS FOR HEALEY
As in Austin. The former England winger took on Australian lock Justin Harrison in 2001 and lost, big time. Healey labelled Harrison a plank, a plod and an ape in a newspaper column. Of course, the Brumbies lock stole a line-out at the death of the third test to seal the series and silence the motor mouth.
I IS FOR IZZY
As in Folau. He won't feature tonight but reports suggest he will be there for Canterbury Bankstown rugby league club next year. A serial code-hopper, who was born in south-west Sydney but played State of Origin for Queensland. Looms as the likely successor to Wayne Rooney at Manchester United. By the Lions's next visit he could have played an Ashes series, won Olympic gold and be heading to Augusta for the Masters.
J IS FOR JONNY WILKINSON
Was a freshed-faced rookie in 2001. Side-stepped the tour to win a European Championship with Toulon. Was last seen sipping champagne and practising his drop goals with dinner rolls during Mad Monday celebrations on the French Riviera. Hasn't ruled out a late dash around the world and a chance to break the hearts of a nation again. (see letter E)
K IS FOR KICKING
Overrated exercise better suited to a round ball. Hopefully Lions coach Warren Gatland has been to the local Video Ezy store and grabbed a copy of the last tour Down Under and noted the scintillating end-to-end edge-of-your-seat rugby it produced.
L IS FOR LONG LUNCH
There is nothing like a midday get together of like-minded folk to get you in the swing for a rugby international. Not particularly conducive to memory retention but a good time to be sure, to be sure.
M IS FOR MASCOT
The Lions', funnily enough, is a miniature stuffed Lion named "Bil". The youngest on tour has the responsibility of being its custodian. Simple enough. Not for Scottish fullback Stuart Hogg who has blamed the toy for a serious bout of hay fever. Please.
N IS FOR NEW ZEALAND
The birth places of Lions coach Warren Gatland and Wallabies opposite Robbie Deans. In terms of job security the Kiwis are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Gatland is coming off a second straight Six Nations title. Deans is battling to keep his clipboard.
O IS FOR O'DRISCOLL
As in Brian. Delighted the locals at the Prince Of Wales Hotel when he made a lightning visit to Newcastle in 2006 to catch up with former teammate Brian Carney and Knights legend Andrew Johns. The Irish had gone down to the Wallabies in Perth the night before but that did stop O'Driscoll knocking back a few schooners and doing an Irish jig.
P IS FOR PENALTIES
The bane of many a rugby follower. Here's hoping the referee doesn't blow the pea out of the whistle tonight.
Q IS FOR QUEEN
"Lizzy" won't be gracing our shores but don't rule out an appearance from grandson, Harry. The third in line for the throne was on hand in Sydney when England won the World Cup and is a noted Lions groupie. If he is not at Hunter Stadium check out the King St Hotel.
R IS FOR RUGBY LEAGUE
As in convert. There aren't any Mungoes of note in this touring party. Hooker Richard Hibbert, who incidentally is a spitting image of Prince Charming from the movie Shrek 2, made one appearance for Wales A against England but there is no ex-league of the elk of Andy Farrell (now the defence coach) or Jason Robinson, who starred in the 2001 series. Farrell's son Owen is the back-up five-eighth.
S IS FOR SONNY
As in Sonny Bill Williams. What the Lions would give for the human wrecking ball and sometime All Black. There have been 19 Williamses tour with the Lions, three more than the Joneses. Williams is absent from the teamsheet this tour but there are two Joneses. Phew.
T IS FOR TRY
A rare commodity in international rugby these days. The stakes aren't as high tonight which should be the catalyst for both sides to try their hand.
U IS FOR UNDERDOG
Aussies love them. There is no greater underdog on this tour than Combined Country. Traditionally this game pits the amateur against the professional. There are no farmers or brickie's labourers featured tonight but with nine still playing their rugby in the bush the essence of the game, thankfully, has been retained.
V IS FOR VIOLIN
Don't expect to hear a concerto being performed at an Aussie stadium any time soon but there could be a few harps depending on the luggage restrictions from Ireland.
W IS FOR WELSH
Hard to understand and just as hard to beat going by their back-to-back Six Nations titles. There are 15 players from Wales in the 37 man Lions squad including captain Warburton. By all accounts a good leader, but given the depth of the back row he may be the first captain to start on the bench.
X IS FOR X-FACTOR
Manu Tuilagi is the man for the Lions. The Samoan-born centre has thighs as big as some Asian-made cars and motors just as fast.
Y IS FOR YES SIR
The appropriate response when you encounter one of the former Lions greats who have been bestowed with a knighthood for past tour triumphs.
Z IS FOR ZZZZZZZZZ
There should be no excuse to nod off tonight. That's unless you get caught at the bar with one of the friendly Irishman (See letter D).