Source: British and Irish Lions

The Lions – the next Stage

  • +1

Anything new under the sun?

The feasibility panel set up by the British and Irish Lions has made a further statement about a possible future. Sadly, plans seem to have reached no further than they had when the idea was first mooted.

I have endeavoured to cover the pros and cons of the subject on four previous occasions:

A British and Irish Lions Tour another step towards equality (020819)

A Women’s Lions Tour comes a step closer (080321)

Into the land of make-believe a Lions XV  (210121)

The Women’s British and Irish Lions seek advice  (160222).

Underlying all four were the same old questions:

Where do they tour?
Who comes to watch?
Who funds the adventure?

The only easy question is: who represents the B&I Lions? For that we need to form yet another committee to decide membership. There, the one problem will be to ensure that the tourists are not overwhelmingly English. That is why, when I first listed two tentative Fifteens (the third piece above), I deliberately limited the number of Red Roses, while including equal (and larger) numbers of Irish, Scottish and Welsh players.

The one feature that has altered since the first murmurings of a Lions tour is the introduction of contracts. These at once enhance the standing of any touring group chosen, but even there the Red Roses have the advantage. They have been on full-time terms for five years; the Scots are only just coming onstream.


I have argued that only France and New Zealand make a plausible destination. You need more than a national squad to offer the Lions true competition. Unless the tour is limited to a series of test matches (that is not the Lions’ tradition), then other opponents have to be prepared to take them on. Both France and NZ certainly could; Canada might be able to; the USA aren’t strong enough.


Will the new global calendar be kind enough to offer a slot for a B&I tour to fit into? World Rugby is finding it marginally easier to accommodate all (most of) the wishes of women’s rugby; the men’s game far less so. There disagreement reigns.

Adding to the complexities is the eagerly awaited WXV, which will carve sizeable chunks out of the year. The Lions would want to tour out of season. That fits in with New Zealand’s calendar, but not with those of France and Canada.

As with so many operations in the 15s format, flexibility is limited by the presence of the HSBC Sevens World Series, which spreads it wings across further expanses of the year. Some of the home nations still allow their players to switch across from one format to the other. If they didn’t, their strength in depth would be severely tested.


Though money is tight all around the world, there will be companies only too happy to see their names emblazoned all over an inaugural women’s Lions tour. If that optimism proves unfounded, then the four home unions will be shaking their piggy banks to see if they still rattle.

Who comes to watch?

The one country that has a fine tradition of watching women’s rugby is France. The one drawback there is that the Lions are less of a known entity there than in the countries where men’s Lions teams have been touring for a century and more.


Today’s statement makes great claims about the progress that has been made, but it fails to indicate what that progress is. We hardly needed to be reassured that all four unions were behind the concept: it could hardly have been otherwise.

But Ben Calvely, CEO of the B&I Lions, would have made a far more positive impression if he had been able to point out the specific areas where advances have taken place. I repeat: where do they tour and when?