The British & Irish Lions is a rugby union team selected from players eligible for any of the Home Nations – the national teams of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The Lions are a Test side and generally select international players, but they can pick uncapped players available to any one of the four unions. The team currently tours every four years, with these rotating among Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The most recent series, the 2017 series against New Zealand was drawn.
From 1888 onwards, combined rugby sides from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland toured the Southern Hemisphere. The first tour was a commercial venture and was undertaken without official backing. The six subsequent visits enjoyed a growing degree of support from the authorities, before the 1910 South Africa tour, which was the first tour representative of the four Home Unions. In 1949 the four Home Unions formally created a Tours Committee and for the first time, every player of the 1950 Lions squad had played internationally before the tour. The 1950s tours saw high win rates in provincial games, but the Test series were typically lost or drawn. The winning series in 1971 (New Zealand) and 1974 (South Africa) changed this pattern. The last tour of the amateur age took place in 1993. The Lions have also played occasional matches in the Northern Hemisphere either as one-off exhibitions or as part of a Southern Hemisphere tour.
Lions tour 2021 fixtures
Sat 3 July: vs Stormers – Cape Town
Weds 7 July: vs South Africa Invitational – Port Elizabeth
Sat 10 July: vs Sharks – Durban
Weds 14 July: vs South Africa ‘A’ – Nelspruit
Sat 17 July: vs Bulls – Pretoria
Sat 24 July: vs Springboks – Johannesburg (FNB Stadium)
Sat 31 July: vs Springboks – Cape Town
Sat 7 August: vs Springboks – Johannesburg (Emirates Airline Park)
The British and Irish Lions have announced a pre-tour Test warm-up against Japan that will be staged at Edinburgh’s BT Murrayfield Stadium the weekend before the tour party departs for South Africa.
Warren Gatland will coach the Lions for the third consecutive tour against the world champion Springboks, with the first of five warm-up matches due to take place on Saturday 3 July next year, with a three-Test series allowing the former Wales coach to attempt to hold an unbeaten status against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa at the same time.
Much has been made of the shortened tour format, which has seen the number of matches reduced from 10 to eight due to an ever-squeezing rugby calendar and concerns over player welfare. But Gatland was determined to add a send-off match to the schedule, and the Kiwi has got his wish with Japan due to face the Lions for the first time on Saturday 26 June.
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