Canterbury are the official kit suppliers of the British & Irish Lions on their 2021 visit to South Africa, as they were for the 2017 tour of New Zealand.
The British & Irish Lions are one of the most successful and oldest touring teams in the world, with rich history dating back to the 19th century when the touring tradition began. In 1888 - after a gruelling 46 days of sailing - Captain Robert Sneddon led his 22-man squad, drawing players from England, Scotland and Wales, on a 249-day-long tour of Australia & New Zealand. The tour kicked off in Otago, and the British Lions played 35 matches altogether, against provincial, city and academic teams. Impressively, they won 27 of these matches.
The first Test series took place in 1891 after the Lions were invited to South Africa by the Western province union with expenses paid for by prime minister Cecil Rhodes. The RFU would brand the 21-man team as the English Rugby Football Team, however, the squad contained four Scotsmen including captain and winger Bill Maclagan, an Edinburgh-born stockbroker who accumulated 25 caps for his country and has since been named in the World Rugby Hall of Fame for his early contributions to the sport. Maclagan saw that the squad was dubbed the British Isles. They took part in 20 matches in South Africa, including the first Test matches. The Lions first test match took place at Port Elizabeth Cricket Ground in front of 6000 fans and was won 4-0 by the touring side.
The first British & Irish Lions tour of the professional era took place in 1997, with a trip to South Africa. This tour would become famous not only for the rugby, but also for the Living With Lions documentary, which provided a fascinating - and previously unseen - insight into the behind the scenes goings on. Led by the Scottish duo of Ian McGeechan and Jim Telfer and captained by English second row Martin Johnson, the British Lions would go on to win the Test series against the Springboks 2-1. The advent of professional rugby had brought many rugby league stars over to union, and this tour helped propel the players into the mainstream. This lifted the previously amateur players to new levels of professionalism and performance.
On 10th May 2019, it was announced that Warren Gatland, who led the British & Irish Lions in 2013 and 2017, will once again take charge in 2021. He has yet to lose a Test series, defeating Australia 2-1 in 2013, and drawing with the All Blacks in 2017. The New Zealander will take charge of the Lions after spending the 2020 season in Super Rugby with the Hamilton-based Chiefs.
The British & Irish Lions tour dates for South Africa 2021 were revealed in December. 2019. A smaller tour than in recent years, the Lions will play 8 games in 5 weeks, culminating in a three match Test series against 2019 Rugby World Cup winners, the Springboks. Johannesburg's FNB Stadium, which will host the first Test, has a capacity of 88,000, so a sell-out crowd would beat the record of 84,188 from the final Test of the 2001 tour to Australia.
Saturday, July 3: British & Irish Lions v Stormers - Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Wednesday, July 7: British & Irish Lions v SA ‘Invitational’ - Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Saturday, July 10: British & Irish Lions v Sharks - Kings Park, Durban
Wednesday, July 14: British & Irish Lions v South Africa 'A' - Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Saturday, July 17: British & Irish Lions v Bulls - Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Saturday, July 24: Springboks v British & Irish Lions - FNB Stadium, Johannesburg
Saturday, July 31: Springboks v British & Irish Lions - Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Saturday, August 7: Springboks v British & Irish Lions - Ellis Park, Johannesburg
On the previous visit to South Africa - led by Sir Ian McGeechan and captained by Ireland's Paul O'Connell - the 2009 British Lions won all 6 warm up matches, but fell to a 2-1 Test series defeat to the Springboks.
If you want to show your support for the British and Irish Lions, check out our expansive official men's Canterbury merchandise collection in 2021. And remember, all orders over £50 qualify for free UK delivery when you shop online at First XV Rugbystuff.com.