Find out everything you need to know about the British and Irish Lions tour 2021
By Simon Ward, Content Editor
Last year, our sporting summer consisted of watching Euro 96 repeats (carefully stopping at Sheringham’s penalty). Whereas this year, it’s all change with top-notch sport everywhere we look. Now it’s rugby’s time to shine with the return of the world’s greatest-ever tour side – the British and Irish Lions – as they begin their tour of South Africa.
With Alun Wyn Jones suffering a shoulder injury during a warm-up game against Japan, Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray is now captaining the 37-man squad. Containing the best rugby players from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, the British and Irish Lions will play five tour matches ahead of a three-test series against the world champions. In 1974 we had The Invincibles. Back in 2013 and 2017, we had the Unbeaten Tours. What will this year’s crop do?
History-making is certainly on the cards should the Lions beat the Springboks as they aim for a first series win in South Africa for 24 years, and only the fifth in their history. And with Warren Gatland as head coach, whose CV is peppered with Wasps, Wales and the Lions, it’s unlikely we’ll catch these Lions sleeping on the job.
Like all sport around the world in 2021, “a year like no other” features on the poster for this unique tour. Normally the Lions are followed around the world by a red army of adoring supporters. But due to Covid restrictions, that won’t be the case this time around. That means the telly is the only place to catch the Lions this summer.
Want to know more? Here’s everything you need to know…
What is the British and Irish Lions 2021 schedule?
Having kicked off their summer tour with a warm-up against Japan at Murrayfield, the Lions will play five tour matches before three Tests (and they certainly will be testing) against world champions South Africa.
Sky Sports has exclusive live rights for the tour, which was shortened from ten games to eight for obvious 2021 reasons. You can also watch highlights of all three tests against the Springboks on Channel 4 while All 4 will show highlights of all the Lions matches.
Here’s the full fixtures list and how to watch the matches on TV…
Tour warm-up games
Lions vs Emirates Lions
Saturday 3 July, kick-off 5pm, Sky Sports Main Event/HD (CH 511/501)
Lions vs Sharks
Wednesday 7 July, kick-off 7pm, Sky Sports Main Event/HD (CH 511/501)
Lions vs Bulls
Saturday 10 July, kick-off 5pm, Sky Sports Main Event/HD (CH 511/501)
Lions vs South Africa ‘A’
Wednesday 14 July, kick-off 7pm, Sky Sports Main Event/HD (CH 511/501)
Lions vs Stormers
Sat 17 July, kick-off 5pm, Sky Sports Main Event/HD (CH 511/501)
Lions vs Springboks
Saturday 24 July, kick-off 5pm, Sky Sports Main Event/HD (CH 511/501)
Lions vs Springboks
Saturday 31 July, kick-off 5pm, Sky Sports Main Event/HD (CH 511/501)
Lions vs Springboks
Saturday 7 August, kick-off 5pm, Sky Sports Main Event/HD (CH 511/501)
Who is in the British and Irish Lions 2021 squad?
Announced on Thursday 6 May, this year’s Lions pack sees the playing group increased from 36 players to 37. One early surprise was the inclusion of Sam Simmonds, the Number 8 for Exeter Chiefs who hasn’t played for England in three years. But his sensational club form meant that Warren Gatland couldn’t ignore him.
This squad breaks down evenly between the nations: 11 English players, ten Welsh, eight Irish and eight Scottish. Only two Scottish players were chosen in the original 2017 squad, and it’s the first time Scotland have had eight men in a Lions squad since 1993.
Alun Wyn Jones is the oldest player at the age of 35, while at 20, Louis Rees-Zammit is the youngest. He’s also the youngest player selected since Ireland’s David Hewitt in 1959. As the most junior lad in the side, Rees-Zammit will also be tasked with carrying around “BIL”, a cuddly lion mascot. (Hopefully, it’s not hand luggage only on the trip).
They will train and play in a Covid-safe bubble with camps in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Captain: Conor Murray (Ireland)
Forwards: Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), Jack Conan (Ireland), Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), Tom Curry (England), Zander Fagerson (Scotland), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Jamie George (England), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Jonny Hill (England), Maro Itoje (England), Wyn Jones (Wales), Courtney Lawes (England), Ken Owens (Wales), Sam Simmonds (England), Kyle Sinckler (England), Rory Sutherland (Scotland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Mako Vunipola (England), Hamish Watson (Scotland).
Backs: Josh Adams (Wales), Bundee Aki (Ireland), Dan Biggar (Wales), Elliot Daly (England), Gareth Davies (Wales), Owen Farrell (England), Chris Harris (Scotland), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Ali Price (Scotland), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), Finn Russell (Scotland), Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), Anthony Watson (England), Liam Williams (Wales).
Are the British and Irish Lions 2021 playing for a trophy?
Normally, the answer to that question is no. But for the first time in the history of the British and Irish Lions, they’ve had their first perpetual trophy commissioned.
Whoever wins the series will hang onto the newly minted 60cm silverware until the next series in South Africa. And presumably, because the Lions don’t have previous shiny souvenirs, they’ll need to build a trophy cabinet as well (if they win it, of course).
What happened on the last British and Irish Lions tour against South Africa?
As you may have guessed from the fact the Lions haven’t beaten South Africa in a series for 24 years, last time around in 2009, they lost the series 2-1. In a tour captained by Paul O’Connell, and with current head coach Warren Gatland serving as forwards coach, they lost the first two matches (26-21, 28-25) meaning the win in the final test was a somewhat hollow victory (9-28).
Since 1989, the Lions now sequentially tour Australia, South Africa and New Zealand every four years. Since the last dust-up against South Africa, the Lions have won one and tied the other. They enjoyed a victory against Australia in the 2013 series, winning that one 2-1, while the most recent series against New Zealand in 2017 finished in a tie.
Watch on the go
Virgin TV customers who subscribe to Sky Sports can watch on the go with the Sky Sports app. Not only will you be able to take your Sky packages with you, but you get in-depth sports coverage, as well as exclusive videos and interviews. On iPad and Android tablets you can also access Sky Sports’ cutting-edge second-screen functions. Download from the Apple app store for iPad or iPhone, or from Google Play.
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