British and Irish Lions women: £3m fund aims to ensure first women’s team is more than just England

Home » British and Irish Lions women: £3m fund aims to ensure first women’s team is more than just England

A £3m grant will aim to ensure the first British & Irish Lions women’s team are not England in all but name.

The Lions will go on a historic first tour, to New Zealand, in 2027.

But there are concerns over the potential balance of the squad, with England having won 17 of the last 25 Five or Six Nations titles.

As a result, Lions sponsors are to provide funding to try to develop players and coaches in all the home nations.

Funding will be given to Wales, Scotland and Ireland, as well as England, to try to “level the playing field”.

Former England flanker Maggie Alphonsi said action was needed to make the Six Nations more competitive, with the Red Roses on course for a sixth successive title after they beat Scotland 46-0 in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Wales have never won the Six Nations and are bottom of this year’s table with three defeats.

The Welsh Rugby Union said the new funding from Royal London will pay for five new staff members to bolster its women’s pathway coaching, including a performance coach, set-piece and skills coaches, and a head of physical development.

It will also invest in programmes aimed at identifying talent across Wales as well as players outside the country who qualify to represent Wales.

WRU executive director of rugby Nigel Walker said: “This is vital and welcome funding which we will make full use of in a way that will have an immediate, direct and positive impact on our performance pathway in the women’s game.

“We will focus on talent identification and growth as well as bringing in significant new additional coaching, development and science-based support.”

Scotland last won the Home Nations Championship – played between the four unions – in 1998.

The Scottish Rugby Union will recruit two coaches and aim to deliver additional camps and training matches for their women’s under-18s and under-20s teams, as well as the national academy.

Ireland are the only team other than England or France to win the Six Nations title – in 2013 and 2015 – though they finished bottom last year.

The Irish Rugby Football Union will also host additional age-grade camps and work with universities to identify playing talent and developing a coaching scholarship programme.

The Rugby Football Union will use its share of the grant to further develop its current programmes, including skill work.

Lions chief executive Ben Calveley said the grant was a “significant investment” in supporting the growth of the women’s game across the nations.

The tour to New Zealand will take place in September 2027. It will include three Tests against world champions the Black Ferns, though a full schedule has yet to be finalised.

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