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Lions fans eye ‘unofficial fourth test’

Touring Lions supporters Neil Gadsby (left), Robbie Brown and Mat Burton. PHOTO/JAKE BELESKI

By Jake Beleski

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A group of eight British and Irish Lions supporters arrived at the Matador Motel in Carterton yesterday, in preparation for this week’s test matches.

The tourists are from the West End in Surrey, and attended the Hurricanes clash with the Lions in Wellington last night.

But they were adamant the bigger occasions were to arrive later in the week.

They will be heading back to Wellington for the Lions-All Blacks second test on Saturday night, but before then they have a test of their own to overcome.

At 5.30pm on Thursday night, they will be taking part in the tour’s “unofficial fourth test match” at the Carterton Rugby Football Club.

An open invite has been sent out for All Blacks and Lions fans to come down to the club and contest a touch rugby match, an All Blacks and Lions quiz and a national anthem sing-off.

A memorabilia auction is also on the cards.

Travelling Lions fan Neil Gadsby said yesterday preparations for the unofficial test had been less than ideal.

“We’ve been training hard . . . there’s been plenty of time spent at the pub.”

“We’ve all put on weight so I’m not sure how it will go.”

The touring party arrived in the country on June 18, and will be leaving on Monday after taking in two test matches and two midweek games.

“The trip has been about two years in the planning,” he said.

“It’s still been a great time despite Saturday’s result — we weren’t going to spend a fortune to not enjoy ourselves.”

The connection to Carterton came from another member of the touring party, Robbie Brown, who played rugby for Carterton “five or six years ago”.

The group will be heading to Levin today, but will have time to visit the Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka before the week ends.

For Gadsby, it is his third time following rugby around New Zealand, having previously been here for the Lions tour in 2005 and World Cup in 2011.

He said 99.9 per cent of the Kiwis they had encountered had been friendly and welcoming, and hadn’t ruled out completing a treble of tours when the Lions return in 2029.

The group has even adopted one of the Lions’ more intriguing rituals, in which the youngest member of the team must look after the mascot at all times.

“We have our own Lion with us, and the youngest person in the group has to look after him.

“Everywhere we go, he comes with us — he’s been to games, bars and everywhere else.”

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