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Black Fern keen on women's British & Irish Lions tour concept

By Adam Julian
Luka Connor, Sarah Hirini, Kendra Cocksedge and Ayesha Leti-I'iga of New Zealand celebrate victory following the Rugby World Cup 2021 Final match between New Zealand and England at Eden Park on November 12, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

A recent feasibility study into the possibility of holding a British and Irish Lions women’s tour has been completed with “positive initial findings.”


Should a tour proceed anytime soon it’s likely the Black Ferns would be the Lions inaugural opposition.

Black Ferns World Champion hooker Luka Connor was a foundation member of the revived Bay of Plenty Volcanic in 2014 and Chiefs Manawa in 2021. She welcomes the prospect of tackling the Lions.

“It would be an amazing opportunity for those players if the British and Irish Lions made a women’s team. Anything that helps grow the women’s game is exciting and if there was a team it would be an awesome display of the best players,” Connor told RugbyPass.

“I’m unsure on what the organising for this would be, but it would be cool to tour over there and that could lead them to come to New Zealand too.”

The Lions men have twice toured New Zealand while Connor has been alive. In 2005 the All Blacks destroyed Clive Woodward’s army of geriatrics and spin doctors 3-0, outscoring the hosts 107-40 in the test series.

The 2017 Lions under Warren Gatland were far more resolute in achieving a historic series tie.


“I remember watching the team growing up playing against our New Zealand sides. It was interesting to see this team come together with top players and exciting to watch them play not knowing how the contest would be,” Connor said.

England hasn’t lost an international to Ireland, Scotland, or Wales since 2015. Is there a danger the Lions would merely be England in red shirts?


The greater commitment to professionalism in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales should see the gap eventually close and if anything can match the hype and spectacle of the World Cup final surely, it’s worth a punt. Connor still buzzes when reflecting on the Black Ferns 34-31 toppling of England at Eden Park on November 12.


“Singing the national anthem to a sold-out crowd was indescribable; I will never forget that moment. When the final whistle went, being able to look around and see everyone holding their Poi’s up high with pride was so special and an unbelievable memory.”

Connor isn’t stuck in the past. She’s been outstanding for unbeaten Chiefs Manawa in Super Rugby Aupiki. She has scored at least a try in all three wins and has spearheaded the Chiefs imperious set piece.

“We’re going well at the moment. I believe it all comes down to everyone in our team being their authentic self. We have fun, great banter and plenty of laughs. We have strong connections and want to work hard for each other. If we all focus on our roles in the team, then things should come together on the field.

“All the teams we have played have been great in different aspects, they all play their own style of rugby. The Hurricanes and Blues like the physicality whereas Matat? likes to play with speed in the backs. Each team has its strengths and we will see who’s in the final soon.”

Former Black Ferns director of Rugby Wayne Smith has suggested the rolling maul should be banned. Is rugby in the future the Black Ferns against the Lions at Eden Park with no mauls?

“Old Smithy he’s a character alright, Connor laughed.

“I like the rest of New Zealand wouldn’t have minded if the maul was banned in the final, but you’ve got to remember Smithy was a back.”


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