The touring rugby team representing the 4 Home Unions of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, is currently kmown as the British & Irish Lions. This team now tours the Southern Hemisphere rugby nations of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand on a 4 yearly rotation. In 2013 it will be Australia that has a Lions tour.
Teams representing these 4 home countries have been touring since 1888. They were originally called the British Isles, despite not always having players from all the nations, and it was in 1950 that they were started to be called the Lions. This was due to the term being used by journalists on the 1924 tour of South Africa and was based on the single lion-rampant crest used up to that time. Ironically that was the first tour to do away with the lion crest, in favour of the four-quartered badge that is still in use today. The single lion-rampant motif was used on the team's ties and that is what the journalists picked up on.
In 2001, on the tour of Australia, the name used was the British & Irish Lions. This was to emphasise the teams' identity of being both United Kingdom and Irish players, Ireland having been independent since 1922.
There was a number of different combinations used as a playing strip in the early years. In 1910 a dark blue jersey was introduced. This remained in use until 1950 when a red jersey was introduced. This was mainly to avoid a clash with the black jerseys of the All Blacks in New Zealand. The kit was then red jerseys, white shorts with green and blue socks, thus representing the 4 home unions. This basic colour scheme is still in use.
2021 British & Irish Lions Tour to South Africa
Click on the link above for the Lions Tour results.
Links to results of previous Lions Tours:
Lions Tours to other Countries
History of the British & Irish Lions
The first tour was in 1888 when a team toured Australia and New Zealand. No tests were played and there were a number of Australian Rules games played by the team. The tour was not sanctioned by the official rugby bodies of the time but it did introduce the concept of Southern Hemisphere tours taking place.
In 1891 a team sanctioned by the Rugby Football Union (the England union) toured South Africa. It was seen as the English national team but some referred to it as the 'British Isles'.
In 1896 a team again toured South Africa. This team was notable in that it had 6 players from the Irish national side in it.
In 1899 a team returned to Australia and was the first side to have players from all 4 home unions in it.
In 1903 a British side toured South Africa. This was followed the next year, 1904, by a tour to Australia and New Zealand. This was the first tour that went to both countries, a tradition that continued until 1971.
In 1908 there was another tour to Australia and New Zealand. For the first time there were more games in New Zealand than Australia and it was essentially an Anglo-Welsh team as no players from Scotland or Ireland were involved.
In 1910 the first official tour by a British & Irish team went to South Africa. It was the first tour run under the auspices of the 4 home unions.
It was another 14 years, 1924, before another tour took place, also to South Africa. This was the first team to be referred to as the Lions although it was not until 1950 that the team was started to be called the Lions.
In 1927 a short tour to Argentina took place. This was followed, in 1930, by a tour to New Zealand and Australia, a tour, in 1936, to Argentina and then in 1938 a tour of South Africa.
Following the end of WWII, the first tour was in 1950, to Australia and New Zealand. This was the first team to use the red jerseys that the Lions have become known for. This tour was followed, in 1955, with a tour of South Africa and then in 1959 another tour to Australia and New Zealand. This tour also included matches in Canada on the way home.
In 1962 there was a tour to South Africa, then a tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1966. This Lions team was the first to suffer a whitewash in the tests: 4-0 to the All Blacks. They also played against Canada on the way home. This was followed by a tour to South Africa in 1968.
In 1971 the Lions returned to New Zealand, playing 2 matches in Australia on the way. This team became the first to win a series in New Zealand. In 1974 the Lions went to South Africa where they won the series against the Springboks and went through the tour unbeaten.
In 1977 they returned to New Zealand and also played Fiji on the way home, a game they lost.
In 1980 there was a tour of South Africa and in 1983 another tour to New Zealand. This Lions team was beaten 4-0 in the tests, only the second time the Lions had been whitewashed.
The 1986 tour to South Africa did not take place for political reasons and in 1989 the Lions toured Australia.
In 1993 there was a tour to New Zealand and then in 1997 a tour of South Africa.
In 2001 the Lions went to Australia, where they lost the series against the Wallabies for the first time. They then toured New Zealand in 2005 where they were again whitewashed, 3-0 by the All Blacks.
The 2009 tour went to South Africa, where the Lions lost the series 2-1. This was followed by the 2013 tour to Australia which they won 2-1 and then in 2017 a tour to New Zealand which was drawn 1-1, the first time a drawn series against New Zealand had occurred.