Former England international Shaunagh Brown: “Why wouldn’t we want a Lions tour for women? In the men’s game, it is the ultimate honour… We know how big women’s football is, but what is to say that we can’t grow at the same rate in rugby? The potential is limitless”
Last Updated: 28/02/23 1:45pm
A first British and Irish Lions women’s tour is looking increasingly likely following ‘positive initial findings’ from a feasibility study into the possibility.
The Lions men’s team is a Test side made up of players from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland which tours every four years, rotating between South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
The men’s team last toured South Africa in 2021, losing 2-1 to the reigning world champions in the three-Test series. They will next tour Australia in 2025.
Lions chief executive Ben Calveley said on Tuesday: “It is extremely positive that a British and Irish Lions women’s tour is possible in the future.
“While there is much to be considered, we are committed to taking the findings of this feasibility study and working closely with our unions, as well as other stakeholders in the coming months.
“I would like to thank World Rugby and our four unions from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales for their ongoing support.
“There has been a strong level of collaboration since the beginning of this process, and we are all united behind exploring this project fully.”
A 13-member steering group, chaired by former Lions and Wales wing Ieuan Evans, also included Calveley, the Rugby Football Union’s chief operating and financial officer Sue Day, Irish Rugby Union performance director David Nucifora, plus World Rugby’s high performance manager Nicky Ponsford.
Evans said: “We are really encouraged by the initial findings of this feasibility study.
“We know there is significant support for the concept of creating a Lions women’s team, and this is an important step along the way to exploring how that can be made a reality.
“Great progress has been made to this point, and a lot of work remains to be done.”
The study investigated key aspects of creating a women’s Lions tour, exploring rugby, brand, commercial, financial, spectator, logistical and scheduling considerations.
Work will continue on areas such as the potential structure and timing of a tour before any final decision is made.
Brown: The potential of women’s rugby is limitless
Former England international Shaunagh Brown believes the study’s findings have provided “a massive green light” for women’s rugby continued growth on the world stage, describing the sport’s potential as “limitless”.
“Why wouldn’t we want a Lions tour for women?” Brown told the Press Association. “In the men’s game, it is the ultimate honour.
“For me, as an elite athlete, you always want more. We have been given this massive green light and there is something to aim for.
“Every project has to start somewhere. If and when a Lions women’s tour happens, all players have strong potential of being professional. We will be a force to be reckoned with.”
Brown added: “We know how big women’s football is, but what is to say that we can’t grow at the same rate in rugby? The potential is limitless.
“The people around the game making decisions have similar ambitions. We want people who have our ambition as players to be in charge of our game.
“What is exciting is how far we can go. It is a good time to be involved and keep being involved and it is about embracing new people, new ideas.
“I feel like it [women’s Lions tour] is going to happen. It’s exciting for the whole sport, whether it happens tomorrow or in 10 years’ time.
“The train is moving, and it is hopefully not slowing down any time soon.”
Brown won 30 England caps and retired from the Test arena last year after the 34-31 World Cup final defeat against New Zealand in Auckland, which was watched by a crowd of 42,500 at Eden Park.
A women’s Lions team would likely be dominated by players from England, who have reached the last six finals of the women’s World Cup, winning the 2014 edition by beating Canada but losing the other five to New Zealand.