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The British & Irish Lions are one of the most successful and oldest touring teams in the world, with a 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.
The 2025 British and Irish Lions tour will take place in Australia, continuing the cycle of visiting the 3 Southern Hemisphere nations once every 12 years.
Between Lions rugby tours, which occur every four years, Lions merchandise is limited, but Ellis Rugby have produced a stunning vintage rugby jersey to fill the void before 2025!
And remember, all orders over £75 qualify for free UK delivery when you shop online at Rugbystuff.com.