Lions tour confirmed as Great Britain returns to international scene

Great Britain’s return to the international calendar has been confirmed after plans for a Lions tour later this year were confirmed.

A four-match tour will see the Lions travel to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea to take on the Kiwis twice as well as games against the Kumuls and World Cup semi-finalists, Tonga.

It will be the first time Great Britain have played since the home series against New Zealand in the autumn of 2007, and their first appearance in the southern hemisphere since the 2006 Tri-Series, reviving a tradition which dates back to 1910, when the first touring team after the 1895 Northern Union breakaway were known as the Lions.

Wayne Bennett will coach the side for the tour, which will commence against the Tongans on October 26th, in Hamilton.

The Lions will then take on New Zealand twice, in Auckland (November 2nd) and Christchurch (November 9th), before wrapping up the tour with a match against against PNG in Port Moresby, on November 16th.

“It’s an honour to be involved as head coach in the revival of the Great Britain team,” said Bennett.

“I’ve coached against them in the past for Australia, and wherever you’re from in the world of Rugby League, the Great Britain jersey is a famous one. I’m sure the current generation of players will be excited at the prospect of wearing it and representing their country in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

“It’s an exciting prospect for international Rugby League, and good to have the Great Britain tradition back.”

Ralph Rimmer, chief executive of the Rugby Football League, said: “The return of the famous Great Britain jersey is something people have been talking about for a long time, so this is an exciting announcement for us.

“It’s 12 years since Great Britain last played a Test Match and 13 since they last travelled to the southern hemisphere – for the 2006 Tri-Nations series.

“While the development of the England Performance Unit has been a priority and a success for the RFL (across Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair Rugby League), and will continue to be as we build towards the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, there is such history and tradition surrounds the Great Britain shirt.

“It’s great for the game to have it back as part of the schedule drawn up by the RLIF (also including the Oceania Cup). We will be committed to respecting and honouring that tradition as we build up to the tour through 2019.”