British and Irish Lions set to tour southern hemisphere in 2019

Great Britain during the 2006 Tri-Nations

The British and Irish Lions are set to tour the southern hemisphere in 2019 after a Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) meeting in Singapore.

It was threatened by a proposal from Australia, who wanted to tour the UK in 2019 but will now do so in 2020 – with New Zealand coming in 2018 and 2022.

The tour would be the Lions’ first action for 12 years after the team was disbanded having beaten the Kiwis 3-0.

The RLIF aims to get this proposed calendar confirmed in November.

The Lions’ last match was in 2007 against New Zealand in a series that preceded the 2008 World Cup.

Since that series whitewash for Great Britain, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have played under their own banners. England will continue to do so for World Cups and incoming tours.

The Kangaroos were keen to go on a tour in 2019 but during the RLIF’s two-day meeting in Singapore it was decided the Lions would proceed with their trip, which was announced last year.

“Organisers of the 2021 World Cup in England believe a visit by Australia at the end of the 2020 season would help build momentum for the tournament,” said a statement from the Australian Rugby League Commission.

“A proposed Lions tour of the southern hemisphere by Great Britain is now expected to take place next year and include Tests against Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and possibly another Pacific nation.”

Key elements of the proposed calendar:

  • Rugby League World Cup in 2021 and 2025
  • Australia tour to UK in 2020
  • New Zealand tour to UK in 2018 and 2022
  • Lions tour to southern hemisphere in 2019 and 2024
  • 2018 European Championship (then at two-year intervals)
  • 2018 Australia v New Zealand Test (annually to 2022)

England played New Zealand in Denver in June, the first of three matches in as many years in the United States.

A key objective for the sport is to increase interest in North America, which will host the 2025 World Cup.

However, the RLIF has agreed to hold a review into the process and criteria it applies to sanctioning international matches.

“The Denver Test exposed all of us to this performance standard and has been a positive catalyst for this review,” said RLIF chief executive Nigel Wood.

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BBC Sport – Rugby League

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