‘For young players it’s amazing that we can now get that opportunity’



Scotland’s Francesca McGhie and Wales’ Sisilia Tuipulotu cut their teeth on the senior international scene with standout performances for their respective countries duly frequenting highlights reels and statistics tables. Given that both are still only 20 years old, lengthy careers of spellbinding international and club performances surely lie ahead for the prolific try-scoring starlets.

The announcement of a women’s British and Irish Lions tour in 2027 has given their generation a new height to strive for, and one which many male players who have represented the prestigious touring side have described as the pinnacle of their careers.

For Tuipulotu, representing the Lions has been a long-term ambition. She said: “It’s actually one of my goals. If I ever have an interview and they’ve asked me what do you see yourself doing in five years and stuff I’ve always said one of my goals was to play in a Lions tour if there ever was one. It would be a dream come true. It’s so good. It will help attract more people to watch the women’s game. It will just build.

“I’d always wondered why there wasn’t a women’s Lions tour but I’m glad that there will finally be one. I think it is very exciting for it to happen. I know it’s in three years but I think the women’s game will grow in those three years and then by the time it comes around it will probably be at the best it’s ever been. It’s pretty exciting.”

McGhie’s personal desire to represent the Lions has been a more recent realisation since she started playing rugby, but the impact of pulling on the red jersey would still be a weighty milestone for the winger.

“My family is a big rugby family, we always watched all of the Scotland games and Lions games when I was growing up. I wasn’t interested really in rugby until I was about 14, so that was never really on my cards in terms of aspiring to play for the Lions. Now that I do play rugby, it’s an opportunity that hopefully I’ll get,” the Leicester Tigers flyer said.

“It would be an incredible experience for sure. As we all know for the men, that is sort of the peak of rugby within the home nations and everybody dreams about pulling on a red jersey. For the women, for that to be the next sort of inspiration for us and the next step for us, that’s really exciting. For young players coming through it’s amazing that we can now get that opportunity as well.

“The general reaction from my teammates was wow, we can now be involved in something like this, something so big and prestigious. The Lions always do so well and bring in so many different crowds always lots of support, the fact that we can have that for women is just going to help us massively. The main thing was excitement and that this is something that we can all be involved in and get behind,” she added.

Further motivation for Tuipulotu to put her hand up for selection has come from the noise surrounding the 2027 Lions team potentially being dominated by English players. “To hear that, whenever I hear something like that it just drives me to be better,” the Welsh prop said.

“It doesn’t put me down, I tend to ignore it and just try to perform the way that I do and try to be better than most people in my position. It drives us to be that much better. I know that England have been professional for years and years now, the rest are slowly getting there.

“Right now Premiership Women’s Rugby isn’t professional, there are still girls that have to work in the day and then train in the evenings. To see it become more professional in those three years would be amazing, it would really help the Lions.”

In addition to the opportunity for the personal achievement of being included women’s Lions tour, McGhie hopes that the tour itself will have a wider impact on women’s sport.

“This is a massive step for women’s rugby, and actually women’s sport in general that we have the same opportunities that the men in the home nations have, the opportunity to pull on that red jersey too. It’s going to rapidly help to grow the sport.

“For young players coming through, and even current players, the fact that we’ve got another aspiration that we can reach towards is going to push us all and for the home nations, it’s going to be a great way to build fans and get some other people to come and watch,” she said.

Both believe that current World Champions and world number two ranked side New Zealand are the right opposition for the first women’s British and Irish Lions tour.

McGhie said: “I think New Zealand is the right place to have the first tour. They are the current World Cup winners, they brought in a massive crowd to the World Cup, the response was phenomenal. For the first women’s Lions tour to be anywhere else wouldn’t have such a great impact that this one is going to have.

“Going to play New Zealand with a different squad will be fantastic for, everybody, but even for the English players who have played the Black Ferns frequently. With a different squad, under different circumstances, this is a great deal for both New Zealand and the countries involved in the Lions team.”

Tuipulotu, who won the Premiership with Gloucester-Hartpury last season, added: “I think it’s a great first choice. The Lions are made up of the four countries in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and the WXV that just went, the Black Ferns lost to England. It will be good competition and we’ll see how it goes.”

Royal London is a proud founding partner of the Women’s Lions.





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