18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
The tour will include three matches against the All Blacks, with the Test series starting in Christchurch on June 25th.
British and Irish Lions Chairman Bill Beaumont said: "As it is 12 years since the British and Irish Lions toured New Zealand it is high time we renewed our long held traditions with the country in general and the All Blacks in particular.
"The tour itself promises to challenge the 2005 Lions from start to finish with a series of difficult assignments but I am absolutely sure that we will rise to that challenge.
"The huge level of interest and enthusiasm shown by the New Zealand public in the tour, even already, will be undoubtedly one of the highlights of this tour and we are very much looking forward to meeting all of the communities we will have the pleasure of visiting while in the country.
"Any Lions tour is a truly unique event in world rugby and I am confident that this tour will be an exceptionally successful and rewarding experience for all involved."
New Zealand Rugby Union Deputy Chief Executive Officer Steve Tew said: "We expect this to be one of the biggest sporting events the country has ever held. The programme we have put in place reflects that, and should maximise the opportunity for all New Zealanders to see the Lions in action."
"Additionally, it will allow the whole country to share in the economic benefits that the tour will bring by providing a wonderful opportunity for the in excess of 10,000 Lions fans we anticipate will come to New Zealand to see as much of the country as is possible during their time here."
The Lions will play matches in venues as far apart as Auckland at the upper end of the North Island, and Invercargill at the bottom tip of the south.
There are six weekend fixtures scheduled for the tour, which kicks off with a game against Bay of Plenty at the Rotorua International Stadium on June 4th, and four midweek matches.
The tourists will gain a thorough preparation for the Tests through six lead-up matches, five against sides from the first division of the Air New Zealand NPC, as well as a fixture against New Zealand Maori.
The Lions' match against New Zealand Maori, at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on June 11th, promises to be one of the individual highlights of the tour.
The two teams produced a classic match during the Lions' last visit 11 years ago, with New Zealand Maori romping to a 20-0 halftime advantage before the tourists clawed their way back to win 24-20.
Another provincial contest that will be keenly anticipated is the Lions' clash with Otago, who have beaten the Lions on four previous occasions, including the 1993 visit when they won 37-24 at Carisbrook. The Otago match rounds out a demanding week for the tourists who also play New Zealand Maori and Wellington within that seven-day period.
There is just one midweek engagement remaining once the Test series begins, with the Lions to play Manawatu at Palmerston North between the First and Second Tests.
Manawatu is the only side from the lower divisions of the Air New Zealand NPC to have been awarded a fixture during the tour.
Westpac Stadium in Wellington will host the Lions twice. Wellington play the tourists on June 15th and the second Test will also be held at the ground on July 2nd. The tour concludes with the Third Test at Eden Park in Auckland on July 9th.
The tour is the 11th by a combined British Isles side to New Zealand. The first was in 1888 and the most recent 11 years ago. During that time, New Zealand have won 24 Tests to the Lions' six, including a 2-1 series victory in 1993 when the All Blacks won the First and Third Tests in Christchurch and Auckland respectively while the tourists prevailed in Wellington.
The Lions' only previous series victory in New Zealand was achieved in 1971 when a side coached by Welshman Carwyn James prevailed 2-1, with the fourth and final Test in Auckland drawn.
British & Irish Lions Tour of New Zealand 2005 Fixtures List
Match 1: 4 June 2005, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua International Stadium Match 2: 8 June 2005, Taranaki, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth Match 3: 11 June 2005, NZ Maori, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton Match 4: 15 June 2005, Wellington, Westpac Stadium, Wellington Match 5: 18 June 2005, Otago, Carisbrook, Dunedin Match 6: 21 June 2005, Southland, Rugby Park Stadium, Invercargill Match 7: 25 June 2005, All Blacks, Jade Stadium, Christchurch Match 8: 28 June 2005, Manawatu Arena Manawatu, Palmerston North Match 9: 2 July 2005, All Blacks, Westpac Stadium, Wellington Match 10: 9 July 2005, All Blacks, Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off times are yet to be finalised and will be subject to discussions between NZRFU, the British and Irish Lions and broadcasters.
In a separate but related development the British & Irish Lions are also pleased to announce the appointment of the four official travel agents for the New Zealand Tour. They are: 1. Gullivers Sports Travel: Contact telephone +44 (01684) 293 175 or www.gulliversports.co.uk 2. Mike Burton Sports Travel: Contact telephone +44 (01452) 419 666 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org 3. Titan Travel: Contact telephone +44 (0870) 754 1808 or e-mail email@example.com 4. ebookers: Contact telephone +44 (0870) 043 3822 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org