The Rugby League International Federation has confirmed that the first Great Britain and Irish Lions tour in more than a decade will take place in 2019.
After this year’s World Cup, New Zealand will tour Europe in 2018 with the Lions going Down Under the following year. Australia will then tour Europe in 2020 followed by the 2021 World Cup in the UK.
The Lions last played in 2007 against the Kiwis before they were disbanded into England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland for the 2008 World Cup.
Many people have called for the Great Britain brand to return to the sport throughout the last decade and today’s news is likely to please a large number of supporters.
Nigel Wood, chairman of the RLIF, said: “I am sure supporters will welcome the re-introduction of Lions, Kangaroos and Kiwi tours in particular but the calendar provides new opportunities for all our members and embraces the expansion of Nines, providing an exciting future for players, supporters and members alike.”
As part of the new four-year cycle, announced following an RLIF meeting in Sydney, the sport’s governing body announced:
An Emerging Nations Championship in 2018 leading up the 2021 World Cup which will be hosted by the Rugby Football League in the UK.
World Cup qualification will be concluded two years in advance, with the line-up for 2021 to be completed by December 2019.
A pledge to support the development of tier-two nations, those outside the big three, by working with continental federations to strengthen existing regional competitions in Europe, Asia Pacific, the Americas and Middle East/Africa.
A commitment to putting together a business plan for international Nines with the potential for a World Cup for men and women in 2019 and for both youth and women’s nines to become a part of the Commonwealth Games Festival in 2018.
The creation of a dedicated mid-season international weekend, giving nations an opportunity to build on the success of this year’s Pacific Test Series in Sydney.
The history of the Lions goes back to 1908 when they were defeated 2-1 by the touring Kiwis. The first Great Britain tour of the southern hemisphere took place in 1910
RLIF four-year cycle calendar:
2018 New Zealand tour of Europe
2018 Emerging Nations championship
2019 Great British and Irish Lions tour of southern hemisphere
2020 Australia tour of Europe
2021 Rugby League Men’s and Women’s World Cups