British and Irish Lions

From Academic Kids

Missing image
The official 2005 Lions logo

The British and Irish Lions (formerly British Isles and then the British Lions) are a Rugby Union side comprising the pick of the best players from the four Home nation unions, i.e. England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

The Lions are exclusively a touring team, and play the traditionally strong southern hemisphere teams of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

In a break with tradition, a first 'home' fixture against Argentina was played at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on May 23, 2005, before the Lions went to New Zealand. The Lions scraped a 25 all draw following an injury time penalty by Jonny Wilkinson.

Playing for the Lions is considered the highest honour in the game for British and Irish players, higher even than playing for your country. It is also a huge occasion for those who play against the Lions since they only get one chance to play against them every twelve years.

On tour there are midweek games against local provinces or clubs as well as the full tests against the host's national team. There is always tension between those selected for the tests and those who turn out only for the midweek games.



The team was originally known as the 'British Isles', this being the term often used for the archipelago of which Great Britain and Ireland form a part. On the 1950 tour of Australia they adopted the name the 'British Lions' after the lion emblem on their jerseys. In recent years they have been known as the 'British and Irish Lions' out of respect for the players from the independent country of the Republic of Ireland; some criticised this change as unnecessary political correctness. The team are often called simply the 'Lions'.


As the Lions do not represent a nation state, they did not have a national anthem. However "The Power of Four" was specially commissioned by coach Sir Clive Woodward for the 2005 tour to New Zealand. It was composed by Neil Myers, and was first performed by Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins before the Lions' match against Argentina at the Millennium Stadium in 2005.

"From the four corners of our lands

We're united, hand in hand


We're stronger

We join and proud we stand

Now the day has come, we are one

Standing tall for our Lions call

We're stronger


We are the power of four"


Combined British & Irish teams had been heading for the southern hemisphere since 1888 but the first tour selected by a committee from all four Home Unions, was to South Africa in 1910.

The first tour was a commercial venture made without official backing, but the six subsequent visits that took place prior to 1910 enjoyed a growing degree of support from the authorities, although only one of these included representatives of all four nations.

The Lions name was coined during the inter-war period, when the emblem on the players' jersey and lapel badges gave them their alternative title.

The 1950s proved a golden age for Lions rugby, although it was not until the 1970s that style was matched with the substance of victory in New Zealand and South Africa.

Many observers questioned whether the Lions had a future in the age of professionalism and the Rugby World Cup. But the tours of 1997 and 2001 proved among the most popular of all, and 2005 promises to be an even bigger event again.

Postwar tours and captains

Head Coaches

Other famous Lions

See also

External links


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