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Gaffney challenges Scotland youngsters to make new British & IrishLions women's team

The first-ever British & Irish Lions team will tour New Zealand in 2027
The first-ever British & Irish Lions team will tour New Zealand in 2027

Megan Gaffney has challenged Scotland’s exciting youngsters to disrupt English dominance and force their way into the inaugural British & Irish Lions women’s squad, writes Sportsbeat's Paul Martin.

The first ever female Lions touring party will travel to New Zealand for a three-Test series in September 2027 following a successful feasibility study into a potential women’s tour.

England have won five consecutive Women’s Six Nations Championships and are expected to make up the bulk of the squad if that trajectory continues, with Lions CEO Ben Calveley ruling out a quota-based selection and insisting players will be picked on merit.

But Gaffney, who won 45 Scotland caps before retiring from international rugby in February 2023, is hopeful the landscape will look different by the time the squad is selected.

“We [Scotland] have got such a great group of players coming through,” she said.

“Three-and-a-half years is a long time away and they have that time to push and get into the team.

Gaffney previously represented Great Britain in rugby sevens and is encouraging the next generation to take up the chance of playing for the Lions
Gaffney previously represented Great Britain in rugby sevens and is encouraging the next generation to take up the chance of playing for the Lions (INPHO/Billy Stickland)

“Any opportunity to represent your nation is exciting enough but to be considered one of the best in Britain and Ireland is a real honour.

“When I first started playing, this [a Lions women’s team] probably didn’t even enter my mind, so this is outstanding.”

Gaffney gained her own taste of representing multiple home nations through her time with the Great Britain rugby sevens set up.

The winger was part of training squads ahead of the Rio and Tokyo Olympics and believes joining forces under a Lions umbrella will only serve to strengthen Scotland’s own international side when players return to more regular international duty.

“Playing GB sevens gave me some of my best rugby experiences,” she said.

“The first time I was involved, I was 22, I didn’t really know what was what, and you had the likes of Emily Scarratt, Nollie [Danielle Waterman], Claire Allan, Alice Richardson.

“The level they trained at was so high, it showed me what I needed to do to become the best player.

“I learnt a lot. Playing alongside players that you’ve idolised is a huge thing and I probably suffered a wee bit from imposter syndrome but to be considered at that level was a huge confidence booster.”

Pre-Test fixtures, likely to be against provincial sides in New Zealand, are set to be part of the schedule for the Howden British & Irish Lions Women’s Series, which will not overlap with the men’s World Cup in Australia later the same year.

The women’s Lions squad’s touring programme will not mirror their male counterparts, with Calveley namechecking France and North America as potential future destinations.

But Gaffney, who represented Manawatu Cyclones and featured for Scotland at the most recent World Cup in New Zealand, believes the home of the Black Ferns is the natural place to start.

“Everybody loves rugby in New Zealand and everyone has an opinion on it,” she said.

“It’s a friendly game over there and my time there was an incredible experience.

“To launch the Lions Women now, and for it to be in New Zealand competing against the best team in the world at the moment, is really special.”

Howden is the Principal Partner of the British and Irish Lions. Through their support Howden aim to contribute to the long-term sustainability of the game and to leave a positive legacy, spanning from grassroots to the elite levels, through the duration of the partnership.