Managing director Ben Calveley confirms it’s a case of “when not if” there is a Lions women’s team

Lions planning to launch a women’s team

The British & Irish Lions insist it is a case of “when not if” they have a women’s team.

The best men’s players from Britain and Ireland have been touring the southern hemisphere since 1888, but talk of a women’s team pulled from the same nations has only grown louder in recent years.

Asked whether the Lions are considering introducing a women’s team, managing director Ben Calveley said: “Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing?

Lions planning to launch a women’s team

Deal done: Lions managing director Ben Calveley with head coach Warren Gatland (Getty Images)

“If you look at women’s sport generally – and women’s rugby is no different – it’s going from strength to strength.

“We had a wonderful Women’s World Cup in Ireland recently and I’m sure the next edition will be similarly fantastic. Then there’s the inclusion in the Olympics of sevens.

“Who doesn’t want to be part of that? It’s in the when not if category.”

Women’s sport is enjoying a greater profile than ever, with the Women’s Football World Cup currently taking place in France a prime example.

In rugby, the Barbarians launched their women’s team in 2017 and a couple of weeks ago they played England’s men and women at Twickenham.

A similar double-header between Wales and the Barbarians will take place at the Principality Stadium on 30 November.

Wales wing Jasmine Joyce was part of the squad that took on England and she believes the Lions should follow the Baa-Baas’ lead and launch a women’s team. She told the BBC: “If the men can do it, then why can’t the women? It’s very similar to the Barbarians, although obviously it’s just the four countries.”

Lions planning to launch a women’s team

New ground: Jasmine Joyce on the attack for the Barbarians against England (Getty Images)

Rugby World ran a Twitter poll on the topic, with 70% in favour of the Lions introducing a women’s team.

However, there are questions that need to be answered about how a Lions women’s team would work in practical terms.

The men tour Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, but while the Black Ferns are world champions and Australia’s women’s set-up is making progress, South Africa are in the very early stages of their development and would not – at present at least – provide a high-quality series.

After all, a Lions tour is not just about the Tests but the games against club and representative sides around the host country. And to be successful it needs to be competitive.

New Zealand would offer a tough schedule but Australia and South Africa would struggle at the moment.

If the women’s Lions carved out their own path, a tour to France would be a good option. They have a strong domestic competition and a strong Test team so the matches would be competitive, while women’s rugby also draws big crowds in France.

The other concern that has been raised regards the make-up of the squad. England’s players are now professional and lifted the Six Nations Grand Slam, so some worry that there could be a minimal number of representatives from Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Another issue is when would they tour? The men’s tours take place in the same year as Women’s World Cups, so would the women’s tours take place in the years of the men’s World Cups?

Calveley recognises that there are a lot of things to iron out before the Lions move forward with their plans to launch a women’s team.

“Those are the questions we need to answer,” he said. “We need to do a piece of work to see what conditions would make a tour as successful as possible. It could be to the same places or maybe not.

“We don’t have the answers yet but we’re committed to doing that piece of work and we’ll speak to the unions. And, like I said, it’s when not if.”

As yet, there is no timescale on when a women’s team would be launched but at least it is on the Lions’ agenda.

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