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What would a potential women's British & Irish Lions XV look like?

By Adam Julian
Linda Djougang of Ireland and Sam Monaghan of Ireland reacts during the Ireland v Scotland Rugby World Cup 2021 Europe Qualifying match at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on September 25, 2021 in Parma, Italy. (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

A feasibility study recently conducted into the prospects of a British and Irish Lions women’s team had “positive initial findings.”


If a team were to be picked today on the assumption that all eligible players are healthy and available and with a criterion that England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales were to have at least two players each who would make it?

England has won the Triple Crown in the Six Nations every year since 2016 but would have to sacrifice some talent in this team to fulfil the quota.

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Potential women’s British & Irish Lions XV:

15. Ellie Kildunne (England)

Tore up the Black Ferns in 2021 scoring a try in each test. Despite protracted injury struggles, she has remained one of the most gifted counter-attacking fullbacks in the game. She could have followed an English sevens pathway but funding for the program was cut in 2020 due to Covid.

14. Jasmine Joyce (Wales)

In 2021, Wales men’s player Josh Adams was so moved by the pace and quality of Joyce that he described her as one of the best players in the world and pushed for more financial support for the women’s game. Joyce has been a regular Welsh selection since 2017 and has also flourished in Sevens where at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics she was the joint top try scorer.


13. Emily Scarratt (England)

The numbers say it all. 108 tests, 93 wins, 760 points, 59 tries. Scarratt scored the winning try in the 2014 World Cup final and has arguably been the most dominant women’s player of the last decade.

12. Holly Aitchison (England)

Following a long career in Sevens where she scored 259 points in 72 matches in the World Sevens Series, Aitchison made the transition to fifteens. She scored a try on her test debut, a 43-12 hammering of the Black Ferns in 2021. She has since formed a formidable partnership in midfield with Emily Scarratt. Aitchison has won 14 of her 15 test matches.


11. Abby Dow (England)


Won her first 29 test matches and developed a reputation as a clinical finisher. In the 2021 World Cup semi-final against Canada, she scored the World Rugby Try of the Year when she dramatically sprinted 60 meters at Eden Park. She had been out of the game for the best part of a year with a broken leg.

10. Helen Nelson (Scotland)

The daughter of ski instructors, representing Scotland from 2009 to 2012, Helen has emerged as one of the leading first-fives in the world. She made her test debut against France in 2016 and helped Scotland reach the World Cup in New Zealand last year for the first time in 11 years. In 2022 she was named in the official Six Nations team of the championship. Nelson has played 46 tests and scored 120 points.

9. Leanne Infante (England)

Has been a model of consistency during her 57-test career. Perhaps her best performances were the in the 2019 Grand Slam success and the 2021 slaying of the Black Ferns. In the second test of that series, she scored two tries in a record 56-15 win.

8. Sioned Harries (Wales)

With 69 tests stretching back to 2010, Harries is one of the most capped Welsh players. She had a long stint at lock meaning she is an adept lineout forward and kick-off merchant. Dynamic with the ball in hand she also has a huge work rate on defence.


7. Rachel Malcom (Scotland)

The inspirational Malcom can cover all three positions in the back row and her fearless attitude has seen her recover from two concussions to captain Scotland. She made her international debut in 2016. Welsh tackling machine Alex Chandler and English legends Sarah Hunter and Marlie Packer, who have played a combined 229 tests, are desperately unlucky to miss out.

6. Alex Matthews (England)

The bulldozing blindside enjoyed an epic 2022 winning her 50th cap and becoming one of the most complete forwards in the world. In the Six Nations, she was one of just five players to hit over 100 attacking rucks, made more breaks than any forward in the competition, and ranked highly in tackles made and lineout catches. At the World Cup, she was Player of the Match in England’s narrow 13-7 win over France.

5. Sam Monaghan (Ireland)

From a football background, Monaghan made a late switch to rugby and in 2022 was named Irish Player of the Year. In the 2022 Six Nations, she was immense. She was the only second-row to notch a half-century of carries and was one of only four players to make over 50 tackles in five matches.

4. Abbie Ward (England)

England scored 43 tries at the 2021 World Cup with 28 of them directly from lineouts. Ward has been a tower of strength in that department for 61 tests and is everything a contemporary lock around the field should be.

3. Sarah Bern (England)

The 2019 English Player of the Year has played 52 tests and has been the anchor of the Red Roses scrum that largely demolished opponents during the world record 30 test match winning streak.

2. Amy Cockayne (England)

The only player to score a hat-trick of tries (male or female) in a World Cup final, Cockayne is a beast. Deadly accurate on the throw, robust in the carry, and brutal in the tackle she has 70 tests to her credit.

1. Linda Djougang (Ireland)

The Cameroon-born nurse migrated to Ireland at the age of nine and her first game of rugby was in tag form when she was 17. She Googled ‘what is rugby?’ before attending the game. In 2019 she earned her first cap. A destructive tackler, and powerful scrummager capable of covering both sides she hit more rucks (136) than any other player in the 2022 Six Nations.


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