The British & Irish Lions will continue to collaborate with all key stakeholders, including its constituent Unions, World Rugby, and the various leagues to finalise full Tour details including the Tour schedule. The inaugural Test match Series will take place in September 2027 during the women’s global competition window and will not overlap with the men’s Rugby World Cup 2027.
This announcement follows a feasibility study funded by Lions Founding Partner Royal London, which concluded that the optimum time for the Tour is 2027. The feasibility study also investigated all key aspects of creating a Lions Women’s Tour with a consultation process exploring brand, commercial, financial, spectator, logistical, and scheduling considerations.
The feasibility study was followed by a Tour host selection process with New Zealand emerging as the preferred Tour destination. Further details associated with the Tour are set to be announced in due course.
The British & Irish Lions is also pleased to unveil major commercial partnerships for the Lions
Women’s Tour, in what is a significant endorsement for the Tour and Series, women’s rugby, and women’s sport generally.
The UK’s largest life, pensions, and investments mutual, Royal London is confirmed as Founding Partner of the Lions Women’s Team. It will also be the front of jersey sponsor for the official jersey, after funding the original feasibility study as longstanding supporters of the prospect of a Lions Women’s Tour.
The partnership will also see Royal London invest in player development in each of The British & Irish Lions constituent Unions through the delivery of a special elite players’ Pathways Funding grant. The grants will support the elite women’s player and coach pathways in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and England, to help Unions develop more players and coaches capable of being selected for the inaugural Lions Women’s Tour. In addition, Royal London will also be investing in women’s and girls’ grassroots rugby across the UK and Ireland in the run-up to the Tour.
Leading global insurance group Howden meanwhile has been confirmed as the Series Title Partner of the inaugural Lions Women’s Tour which will be named the Howden British & Irish Lions Women’s Series. Howden’s support for the Lion’s Women’s Tour is part of its overall partnership with The British & Irish Lions which also sees them support the Lions at a community level via the Lions Origin Clubs, as well as being the official front of jersey sponsor for the upcoming 2025 Lions Men’s Tour to Australia.
Ben Calveley, CEO, British & Irish 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”.
“It is also significant that we are announcing two major commercial partnerships for the Lions Women’s Tour today which is recognition of the huge potential of the Tour, the desire for large brands and organisations to be associated with it, as well as the growth of women’s rugby. Royal London has been an outstanding partner to The British & Irish Lions and a consistent advocate both for this Tour and for the women’s game. Their aim is to make a positive impact on women’s rugby and continue its growth and success story and we are honoured to have them on board.”
“We are thrilled to confirm Howden as the Series Title Partner for the Tour to New Zealand. They have demonstrated a real appetite and desire to support the women’s game and get behind this Tour and we look forward to working closely with them in the years ahead.”
“Playing three Test matches against the current world champions, the Black Ferns in New Zealand in front of thousands of fans represents the ultimate challenge and makes for a fantastic sporting spectacle. We look forward to working with all our stakeholders including New Zealand Rugby to finalise an exciting inaugural Tour.”
Ieuan Evans, Chairperson, British & Irish Lions said,
“This is a key development for women’s rugby and women’s sport in general and we are pleased to announce initial details of the Lions Women’s Tour alongside our constituent Unions, Founding Partner Royal London and Series Title Partner Howden.
Alongside all the other key stakeholders who have played crucial roles in bringing this concept to this point, we also want to thank our partners in New Zealand Rugby who we are excited to work with in preparation for the Tour. Having seen the superb job they did in hosting the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2022 and the level of interest there was amongst the New Zealand public I have no doubt they will be fantastic hosts and will really add to the overall spectacle.”
Mark Robinson, New Zealand Rugby CEO commented, “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 Lions and New Zealand have a long and storied history in the men’s game, and we cannot wait to help write a new chapter in the rivalry – this time between the Lions Women and the Black Ferns.”
Royal London Ambassador and former England International Shaunagh Brown said, “The news today is very exciting for women’s rugby. Current players as well as young women and girls starting out in the sport can now dream of wearing that famous red jersey. This news is reflective of the upward trajectory women’s rugby is on and this Tour represents a great opportunity for the best players from Britain and Ireland to be part of the next exciting chapter of the Lion’s history. New Zealand is an incredibly special place to play rugby and will pose a great challenge for the Lions Women’s team in 2027. I look forward to hearing more details as the excitement builds over the next couple of years whilst continuing to work with Royal London as its ambassador; amplifying the support and investment it’s making into player development and grass roots rugby for women and girls, something I’m extremely passionate about.”
Susie Logan, Group Chief Marketing Officer at Royal London, commented, “When we became the first ever Principal Partner of the Lions Women and funded the feasibility report over two years ago, we aimed to play our part in levelling the playing field for women’s rugby and to help break down barriers. So, we are extremely proud to be part of the team that will deliver the first-ever Lions Women’s Tour, and excited to commit to being the Tour’s Founding Partner. The partnership allows us to continue to champion and support women’s rugby from the grassroots up, and to make a difference for this and future generations.”
David Howden, Founder and CEO, Howden Group commented, “Women’s rugby is on an exciting upward trajectory with this historic Lions Women’s Tour being evidence of this. Howden has been involved in community and elite rugby for more than a decade and we are very proud to announce our support for the Lions Women’s Tour with the Howden British & Irish Lions Women’s Series, and expand our association with The British & Irish Lions, an iconic and globally renowned sporting brand.”