THE BRITISH & IRISH LIONS have announced that they will run a women’s tour for the first ever time, visiting New Zealand in September 2027 on an expeditions which will feature three Test matches against the Black Ferns alongside pre-Test fixtures.
The initiatives which is being delivered in partnership with Royal London, which will see the pension and investment company support player development in each of Lions’ four constituent Unions through the delivery of a special elite players’ Pathways Funding grant. In addition, Royal London will also invest in women’s and girls’ grassroots rugby across the UK and Ireland in the run-up to the Tour.
Meanwhile, Howden global insurance group has been confirmed as the Series Title Partner of the inaugural Lions Women’s Tour which will be named the Howden British & Irish Lions Women’s Series.
Ben Calveley, CEO, British & Irish 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.
“I would also like to thank World Rugby for the reforms to regulation 9 which makes this Tour possible in 2027. We are also very grateful to all the clubs as well as wider stakeholders who have all been very supportive and accommodating during this process. We look forward to collaborating further with all stakeholders over the coming months to finalise plans for this historic Tour”.
“It is also significant that we are announcing two major commercial partnerships for the Lions Women’s Tour today which is recognition of the huge potential of the Tour, the desire for large brands and organisations to be associated with it, as well as the growth of women’s rugby. Royal London has been an outstanding partner to The British & Irish Lions and a consistent advocate both for this Tour and for the women’s game. Their aim is to make a positive impact on women’s rugby and continue its growth and success story and we are honoured to have them on board.”
“We are thrilled to confirm Howden as the Series Title Partner for the Tour to New Zealand. They have demonstrated a real appetite and desire to support the women’s game and get behind this Tour and we look forward to working closely with them in the years ahead.”
“Playing three Test matches against the current world champions, the Black Ferns in New Zealand in front of thousands of fans represents the ultimate challenge and makes for a fantastic sporting spectacle. We look forward to working with all our stakeholders including New Zealand Rugby to finalise an exciting inaugural Tour.”
Ieuan Evans, Chairperson, British & Irish Lions said: “This is a key development for women’s rugby and women’s sport in general and we are pleased to announce initial details of the Lions Women’s Tour alongside our constituent Unions, Founding Partner Royal London and Series Title Partner Howden.”
“Alongside all the other key stakeholders who have played crucial roles in bringing this concept to this point, we also want to thank our partners in New Zealand Rugby who we are excited to work with in preparation for the Tour. Having seen the superb job they did in hosting the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2022 and the level of interest there was amongst the New Zealand public I have no doubt they will be fantastic hosts and will really add to the overall spectacle.”
Mark Robinson, New Zealand Rugby CEO, commented: “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. 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. There will be anticipation around the country about the prospect of hosting the Lions and we look forward to announcing venues and match schedules in the future. The Lions and New Zealand have a long and storied history in the men’s game, and we cannot wait to help write a new chapter in the rivalry – this time between the Lions Women and the Black Ferns.”