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Lions and Royal London announce £3m grant for Unions

The British & Irish Lions Women’s Team Founding Partner, Royal London has announced a £3 million ‘Levelling the Playing Field’ Pathways Funding grant with the Unions of Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England detailing how they will allocate funding received.

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The UK’s largest mutual pensions and investment provider is allocating these grants to support the elite women’s player and coach pathways in all four Unions. Each has developed its own tailored funding plan to match their needs.

The aim of the funding is to help develop more players and coaches ahead of the inaugural Howden Lions Women’s Tour to New Zealand in 2027 and cements Royal London’s partnership with the Lions Women’s Team.

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It follows the news that the first-ever Lions Women’s Tour will take place in New Zealand in September 2027. The series will include three Tests against the Black Ferns, the current world champions, alongside pre-Test fixtures.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has elected to use the funds to host additional women’s U18 and U20 camps and training matches to accelerate player development. It will also develop a ‘Coach Accelerator Scholarship Program’. The programme will accelerate coach capability and long-term career progression with a specific emphasis on removing gender related career barriers. Coaches will be supported by high-performance mentors throughout the scholarship program. The IRFU will also work with universities to identify future talent and unearth potential high-performance players.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU), the national governing body for rugby union in England, will use the grant to further develop its ‘Player Development Groups’, boosting the overall player experience journey and increasing the targeted skill development of players coming through the pathway.

Scottish Rugby (SR) will recruit two Performance Pipeline coaches and will deliver additional U18 and U20 camps and training matches to accelerate development within the teams. SR will also host residential camps for a national academy which brings together the best pipeline players in Scotland.

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) will strengthen their women’s pathway coaching staff with five new members; a Performance Pathway Coach, Physical Development Lead, Performance Pathway Scientist, a Set-piece Coach and a specialist Skills Coach. It will also invest in talent identification programmes and transfer programmes across the country, and initiatives to engage Welsh qualified talent based outside of Wales.

WRU Executive Director of Rugby Nigel Walker said: “This is vital and welcome funding which we will make full use of in a way which will have an immediate, direct and positive impact on our performance pathway in the women’s game. We will focus on talent identification and growth as well as bringing in significant new, additional coaching, development and science-based support.”

Working collaboratively with the Home Unions and sharing research, ideas and experiences will help develop playing standard and give the Lions Women’s squad the best chance of winning in New Zealand.

To represent its investment into aspiring rugby players and coaches across Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England, Royal London has commissioned a bespoke shirt to showcase what this investment will mean for women in rugby. Matthias Hamzaoui, an established artist and calligrapher, has designed the shirt that uses his iconic grayscale portraiture surrounded with typography quoting players, coaches and staff from across the four national women’s programmes on what this £3 million bursary means for them.

Ben Calveley, CEO, British & Irish Lions said, “Supporting the growth of the women’s game is a key strategic priority for The British & Irish Lions as it is for each of our constituent Unions. Royal London’s ‘Levelling the Playing Field’ grant represents a significant investment into the women’s game in the four Unions and will make a positive impact on women’s rugby. Royal London are an outstanding partner to The British & Irish Lions and a consistent advocate both for the Lions Women’s Tour and for the women’s game. We look forward to working closely with them over the coming years as we build towards this historic Tour in 2027.”

Susie Logan, Group Chief Marketing Officer at Royal London, commented, “Our aim as the Founding Partner of the Women’s Lions Team is to play an integral part in levelling the playing field for women’s rugby. The ‘Levelling the Playing Field’ grants we are announcing today further demonstrate our commitment to breaking down barriers and ensuring we’re able to support the development of women’s rugby at all levels.

“It’s been incredibly important to us that all Unions are actively involved and empowered to develop their own plans ensuring optimal use of the funding across each nation. We’re looking forward to continuing our work in partnership with the Unions to ensure it makes a difference for this and future generations.”

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Lions and Royal London announce £3m grant for Unions
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Lions and Royal London announce £3m grant for Unions