The Lions will be sending their first ever women’s team to New Zealand, a significant milestone for the future generation.
Taking a step back and then moving forward again. On the day that Louis Rees-Zammit, a standout player from the recent British & Irish Lions tour, revealed his departure from rugby to pursue American football, thousands of female players received news that they will now have the chance to compete for the same opportunities he has turned down. The Lions have declared that they will be sending their inaugural women’s team on a tour to New Zealand in 2027, serving as a reminder that despite challenges in the men’s game, there is still immense potential for growth in the sport.
In September 2027, the Lions are scheduled to compete in three Tests against the Black Ferns, with the possibility of five additional warmup matches against provincial teams. They have secured sponsorship from Howden and Royal London, who have committed to providing substantial funding to enhance the development of players and coaches across all four unions.
The tour concludes a three-year investigation that determined the project’s profitability, as long as it had its own designated time in the schedule.
Due to the recent changes in the global calendar, that time slot has now been confirmed. New Zealand was selected as the inaugural tour location due to the Black Ferns’ consecutive world championship wins and the large turnout during the 2021 Women’s World Cup hosted by them.
The Lions are expecting sold-out crowds for their upcoming tour. Additionally, Lions’ CEO Ben Calveley stated that the women’s team will have a unique tour schedule and may play in France or the US for future tours.
Niamh Briggs, a former Irish athlete and member of the Lions’ steering group, expressed her excitement at being able to make this announcement. She predicts that in three years, the game will be completely transformed, much like the drastic change from when she first started playing to where it is now.
The growth of women’s sports is outpacing the ability of some unions to keep up. The upcoming Lions tour will have a significant impact on the next generation, giving young players a tangible goal to strive for – the opportunity to become the top players in the game.
Calveley stated that the specific terms of payment for the women have yet to be finalized. However, it was not too long ago that female players had to cover the costs of their own jerseys during Test rugby matches. The sport has made significant progress in recent years, and the inclusion of a Lions tour is another step in the right direction. It is unfortunate that it has taken 136 years for this to happen.
Shaunagh Brown, an English international, expressed her surprise that it took this long for a women’s team to exist, but she emphasized the significance that it now exists and that it is a crucial part of the future of the game.