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'Hammer everyone else': Women's British & Irish Lions tour questioned

By Kim Ekin
Stacey Fluhler of the Black Ferns and England's Zoe Harrison. (Photos by Joe Allison/Getty Images and Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The proposal of an inaugural British and Irish Lions women’s tour has sparked discussion over just how the exciting concept would work.


Former England player Shaunagh Brown expressed support for such a concept, calling it the ‘ultimate honour’ in the men’s game. A women’s version would allow for further growth on the global stage.

Lions chief executive Ben Calveley concluded after a feasibility study: “It is extremely positive that a British and Irish Lions women’s tour is possible in the future.”

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But there are concerns over the competitiveness of a would-be series with the powers that make up the British & Irish Lions making for a formidable side.

The Red Roses would be expected to dominate selections after going on a 30-Test winning streak that ended in 2022 at the hands of the Black Ferns in the World Cup final.

The England women’s team have their toughest competition against France in the Six Nations, but routinely pile on the points against the others. They finished with 282 points for and 22 points against in the 2022 tournament, with 45 tries scored and just four conceded.

In the Southern Hemisphere, only the world champion Black Ferns present viable competition with Australia and South Africa not yet fully professional.


England demolished the Springbok women side 75-0 while in the quarter-final they handily beat the Wallaroos by 41-5 in wet conditions. The Lions side would be expected to sweep both series comfortably.

Women’s rugby writer and RugbyPass columnist Ali Donnelly wrote there is “genuinely no point in a women’s Lions tour” unless they are touring New Zealand or France as they would “hammer everyone else”.

Canada was floated as a potential option who were able to push England to the brink in their World Cup semi-final last November.

Another idea pushed forward was for the Lions to take on a Barbarian side which would go down a unique path compared to the men’s tours.


The commercial viability of the tour was also questioned, with views on both sides. The strength of the Lions brand was raised as a key pulling force, with travelling fans expected to rally behind the cause.

Following the success of the women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, a three test series between the Black Ferns and the women’s British & Irish Lions side is an intriguing prospect.

New Zealand would provide competitiveness whilst the World Cup final showed that supporters will sell out Eden Park if the occasion fits.

The Black Ferns new fan base in New Zealand has grown following the World Cup and the appetite for a blockbuster event such as a Lions tour could capitalise on this new audience.

A successful series could prove to be a huge boost to the women’s game. With tours every four years, when other nations are competitive they could be added to the rotation.


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