British and Irish Lions to face New Zealand in first women’s tour in 2027

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The British and Irish Lions have announced a first women’s tour – a trip to New Zealand in 2027.

The tour will be held in September and include three Test matches against the six-time world champion Black Ferns.

It will also include further, pre-Test fixtures although the full schedule is yet to be finalised.

Lions chair and former Wales winger Ieuan Evans said the move is a “key development for women’s rugby and women’s sport in general”.

Ben Calveley, chief executive officer of the Lions, said: “Supporting the growth of the women’s game is a key strategic priority for The British & Irish Lions as it is for each of our Unions.

“Significant effort has gone into exploring the concept of a Lions Women’s Tour and great credit needs to go to the members of our steering committee, our board, and our staff.

“In particular, I want to recognise the collaboration of our four Unions and thank them for their continued support and the level of commitment they have shown throughout this journey.”

The announcement comes after a feasibility study into a potential women’s tour, which looked at a range of aspects, including rugby, brand, commercial, financial, spectator, logistical and scheduling considerations.

Men’s Lions tours, which take place every four years and feature squads made up of players from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, have taken place since 1888.

New Zealand have won the past two women’s World Cups, including the most recent edition in 2022 when they beat England in a dramatic final.

“When the opportunity arose to be part of history and have the honour of hosting the inaugural British & Irish Lions Women’s Tour, we knew we wanted to be part of it,” said New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson.

“Women’s rugby is growing at pace in New Zealand and following the success of the Rugby World Cup in 2022, we know the excitement world-class competition can generate.”

The tour has already secured sponsorship.

Former England international Shaunagh Brown, who has been involved in the feasibility studies, said: “Current players as well as young women and girls starting out in the sport can now dream of wearing that famous red jersey.

“This news is reflective of the upward trajectory women’s rugby is on and this tour represents a great opportunity for the best players from Britain and Ireland to be part of the next exciting chapter of the Lions’ history.”

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