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British & Irish Lions to launch women’s team with tour of New Zealand

Featured image credit: Irish Rugby/INPHO/Billy Stickland

The British & Irish Lions rugby union team has announced plans for a first-ever women’s tour, which will take place in September 2027 in New Zealand.

The tour will feature three Test matches against New Zealand, as well as pre-Test fixtures. Further details, including host cities and venues, will be announced in due course.

Royal London and Howden will serve as the principal partners of the Lions women’s team and the series. Royal London will also benefit from front-of-shirt brand exposure.

New Zealand is the current women’s world champion after winning the 2021 World Cup on home soil. The final of that tournament, which saw New Zealand defeat England 34-31, took place at Auckland’s Eden Park stadium in front of 42,479 fans – a record for a women’s sporting event in the country.

Dates for the Lions tour have not been announced but it will not overlap with the 2027 men’s Rugby World Cup, which will take place from October 1 to November 13 in Australia.

A feasibility study funded by Royal London concluded that the optimum time for the women’s tour is 2027. The study also investigated all key aspects of creating a women’s tour, with a consultation process exploring brand, commercial, financial, spectator, logistical and scheduling considerations. New Zealand emerged as the preferred destination for the tour.

Ben Calveley, chief executive of the Lions, said: “Supporting the growth of the women’s game is a key strategic priority for the British & Irish Lions as it is for each of our unions. Significant effort has gone into exploring the concept of a Lions women’s tour and great credit needs to go to the members of our steering committee, our board, and our staff.

“In particular, I want to recognise the collaboration of our four unions and thank them for their continued support and the level of commitment they have shown throughout this journey. I would also like to thank World Rugby for the reforms to regulation 9 which makes this tour possible in 2027. 

“We are also very grateful to all the clubs as well as wider stakeholders who have all been very supportive and accommodating during this process. We look forward to collaborating further with all stakeholders over the coming months to finalise plans for this historic tour.”

Mark Robinson, chief executive of New Zealand Rugby, added: “When the opportunity arose to be part of history and have the honour of hosting the inaugural British & Irish Lions Women’s tour, we knew we wanted to be part of it.

“Women’s rugby is growing at pace in New Zealand and following the success of the Rugby World Cup in 2022, we know the excitement world-class competition can generate. There will be anticipation around the country about the prospect of hosting the Lions and we look forward to announcing venues and match schedules in the future.”

The men’s Lions team will tour Australia in 2025. Last month, it was announced that the team would play its first match in Ireland in the summer of 2025, with Dublin’s Aviva Stadium to stage a pre-tour fixture against Argentina.