The Qantas Wallabies have added further historical overtones to their Grand Slam tour of the UK and Ireland by agreeing to play a midweek match against English club side Gloucester.
The match will be staged on Tuesday, November 3, just three days after a ground-breaking Bledisloe Cup game in Tokyo and four days before the Wallabies open their first Grand Slam campaign in 25 years against England at Twickenham.
It will also be the first time an Australian national team has played at Kingsholm - home ground of Gloucester Rugby - since the inaugural Wallabies beat county side Gloucestershire 16-3 during their famous 1908-09 tour.
Those initial Wallabies left Sydney by steamship 101 years ago without a moniker and known only as the Australian Rugby Union team.
However, attempts by British media to label them the "Rabbits" led to a players' vote during the trip and majority support for the Wallabies name ahead of other contenders including the Waratahs, Wallaroos and Kookaburras.
The First Wallabies further etched their names into Australian sporting folklore by winning, midway through the tour, the Olympic gold medal for Rugby at the London Games.
"The history surrounding this tour is compelling and we're delighted a match against Gloucester will deepen the links to some great Wallabies teams of the past," said ARU Managing Director and CEO John O'Neill.
"This will be the first Grand Slam attempt since the 1984 squad coached by Alan Jones and captained by Andrew Slack became the first Australians to triumph, on the same tour, against four the Home Unions of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
"There were great names throughout the team. The backline included legends in Mark Ella, Nick Farr-Jones, Michael Lynagh, David Campese and Roger Gould.
"The pack too included some of our all time greats and among the finest players in their respective positions, including Simon Poidevin, Tom Lawton and his front row partners Andy McIntyre and Enrique Rodriguez."
Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said the match against Gloucester, while linking the current squad to the past, was also about the future.
"We want to provide players with the opportunity to wear the national jersey and build competition for places in the Test side," he said.
"The match against Gloucester will fulfill that objective and give our players an early taste of British conditions against one of the leading clubs in Europe."
England Test centre Mike Tindall, who played in his country's victorious 2003 Rugby World Cup campaign in Australia, is the present Gloucester captain.
Several former Wallabies have also played at the club in recent years.
Centre Richard Tombs, a member of the 1999 World Cup squad, was one of Gloucester's first overseas signings while long-serving Test stars Jason Little and Jeremy Paul have also had stints at the club.
ARU is also expected to announce shortly a further midweek match for the Qantas Wallabies in the UK.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).