B&I Lions chairman sees 'an opportunity' in women's team after 'inspiring' RWC
The British and Irish Lions are one of the most historic, traditional and exclusive rugby teams in the world, but an exciting new chapter potentially awaits the team following some “positive” discussions.
History and tradition are engrained deep into the ethos of rugby – don’t forget about the Barbarians – and this has made each Lions tour truly special since the first British Isles tour in 1888.
Legends including Willie John McBride, Sam Walker and Gavin Hastings paved the way for modern day greats to etch their names into both rugby and Lions folklore.
Today, donning the coveted red jersey is ons of the greatest honours that a home nations player can achieve – but the exclusive club may expand and welcome a new band of players into their ranks.
As reported by sources including the DailyMail, a recommendation for the first-ever women’s Lions team has been “accepted.”
Lions chairman Ieuan Evans said it’s a great “opportunity” for the team following this year’s “transformational and inspiring” women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
“I chaired the feasibility study on the women’s Lions. A recommendation went to board and it was accepted,” Evans said, as reported by the Daily Mail.
“Those discussions are ongoing but they’re very positive. The feedback and response we’ve had from players and unions, sponsors and broadcasters, has been excellent.
“Look at the women’s World Cup. Talk about transformational and inspiring. The quality of the rugby was off-the-charts good. It really is an opportunity for us.
“It’s a question of when and finding a slot. Why wouldn’t the Lions, who are such a totemic entity, have a women’s team?
“There is the appetite and the quality and now it’s literally about finding a slot in the calendar for it.”
The women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand was a truly ground-breaking event, as a sold-out Eden Park watched on as the Black Ferns defended their crown against favourites England.
The Red Roses, who were on a 30-Test unbeaten streak going into the thrilling decider at Auckland’s home of rugby, fought valiantly despite playing with 14 players for more than an hour.
While it’s New Zealand’s name on the trophy, every single player, coach and referee who contributed to the success of that tournament can rightly take pride in what they’ve done for the sport.
But as rugby looks to grow and continue to benefit from the success and momentum of the World Cup, then a Lions tour seems like an incredible next step.
Considering the long-lasting rivalry between the Lions and New Zealand, DailyMail writer Alex Bywater has suggested “it would be logical” for the team to go head-to-head with the Black Ferns.
Evans, who played on the wing for the Lions on more than a handful of occasions, believes the female Lions would need to “find its own path.”
“The one thing about the women’s Lions is it needs to find its own path. The Lions has embraced its uniqueness and benefitted from being different to everyone else,” he said.
“The women’s Lions similarly should embrace being different. It doesn’t need to follow the men’s. It can do its own way and there is interest from the host nations.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm to host a women’s Lions. There is a significant value in it. That’s what the Lions does. It has a footprint well beyond its geographical boundaries.”
The British and Irish Lions returned to the Test arena in July last year against reigning world champions South Africa – but lost that series 2-1.
After winning the first Test by five-points in Cape Town, the men in red couldn’t do enough to take out the series.
Four years earlier, the Lions played both a thrilling and frustrating series decider against the All Blacks at Eden Park – which infamously ended in a draw.
A sea of red packed the stands at the famous New Zealand stadium, and chants of “Maro Itoje” were regularly heard echoing throughout the packed out stadium.
But following a long-range Elliot Daly penalty goal, the Test ended with a controversial decision by referee Romain Poite.
The men’s Lions traditionally played both of these nations every 12 years, as well as Australia who they’re set to come up against in 2025.
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