Sydney - The British and Irish Lions will have no respite when they face a combined New South Wales-Queensland Country team on their upcoming tour after coach Cam Blades confirmed he would be picking Super Rugby players.
The match at Newcastle's Hunter Stadium on June 11 looks to be the easiest of the nine the Lions will play in Australia, the others being against the country's five Super Rugby franchises and three Tests against the Wallabies.
Blades said, however, that he would be looking to pick the strongest possible team from players with their roots in rural areas of the two states, regardless of where they were playing their rugby at the moment.
"We have a spread sheet of available players," Blades added in a news release.
"It includes players currently with Super Rugby franchises, with Premier Rugby clubs in Sydney and Brisbane, or currently playing with the NSW Country or Queensland Country representative teams.
"We are picking the side on an 'origin' basis and selection will be on merit. We want the best side out there and anyone who fits the criteria is in the running."
The matches against "country" teams were traditionally among the more physical encounters on Lions tours and although they have decreased in number as tours have got shorter, they still offer a chance for unknown players to step out of obscurity.
Blades, a one-cap Wallaby who currently coaches Sydney club Southern Districts, said playing twice against the Lions on their last tour of Australia in 2001 was an "unforgettable experience".
"Because they travel here only every 12 years, you can miss out on the experience even if you have a career of incredible longevity," he said.
"I consider myself lucky to have run out against them in 2001. Those memories are certainly some of the fondest of my rugby career.
"I will be emphasising to the country players involved just how important this is and what a milestone it is in their careers.
"I want them all buying into that opportunity and to climb into the Lions in Newcastle."
The Lions open their tour against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1 and arrive in Australia the following day.