By Paul Martin
The newly-formed British & Irish Lions women’s team have been urged to ‘plough their own furrow’ amid guarantees they will not simply mirror the men’s outfit.
The first ever female Lions squad will travel to New Zealand for a three-Test series in September 2027 following a successful feasibility study into a potential women’s tour.
France and Canada had been mooted as potential destinations, along with hosting a series, but Lions chief executive Ben Calveley cited an emphasis on the quality as the key behind the decision to take on the Black Ferns.
“There are certain elements that are baked into the Lions DNA that we wanted to retain and one of them is this concept of best versus best,” he said.
“New Zealand absolutely give us that. For the inaugural tour, it feels right that we are playing against the back-to-back world champions.
A historic day for the Lions as we introduce....
🦁 A Lions Women's team
🇳🇿 Playing the @BlackFerns in 2027 in New Zealand
🤝 @RoyalLondon as our Founding Partner
🙌 #Howden as our Series Title Partner
Click the video to find out more! 👇#Lions2027
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) January 16, 2024
“They recently hosted a World Cup, which was extraordinarily successful, so we’re confident these matches will be hyper competitive.
“For us, this is a long-term programme. What we won’t do is just replicate what happens in the men’s game.
“We can see ourselves in the future going to lots of very different locations. France could be really interesting for a Lions women’s tour in the future and North America is hosting World Cups in 2031 and 2033.”
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.
Ieuan Evans, who played on three Lions tours between 1989 and 1997, chaired the feasibility study steering group and said: “The Lions is heaped in tradition but the Lions Women will be ploughing their own furrow.
“I’m fortunate to have gone on a number of Lions Tours which, in many ways, shaped me and to a large extent defined me as a person.
“This is for all those people who are training now and for young girls to watch this in a few years and be inspired, just like I was growing up.”
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.