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British & Irish Lions

British & Irish Lions to play test at BT Murrayfield

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Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The British & Irish Lions will host Japan at BT Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday 26 June 2021 for the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup.

The first-ever clash between the world’s greatest touring side and the Brave Blossoms will raise the curtain for the Lions’ eagerly awaited Tour to South Africa, which culminates in a three-Test series against Rugby World Cup champions, the Springboks.

Tickets for the historic fixture go on pre-sale on Tuesday 3 November, with supporters able to register their interest at lionsrugby.com/Vodafone-1888-Cup. Vodafone customers will be able to benefit from access to tickets and giveaways via the VeryMe loyalty programme.


Lions head coach Warren Gatland believes the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-finalists will provide a stern test for his squad before they depart for South Africa.


“We saw Japan play some excellent rugby during the World Cup and they will come to Edinburgh fully-motivated to win,” said Gatland.

“They are a talented side who play high-tempo rugby, so it’ll be a good challenge for us ahead of the Tour, and a chance for the match day squad to put their hands up for Test selection.”
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Lions managing director Ben Calveley added: “One of our objectives is to give Warren and the playing squad as much meaningful preparation as possible before departing on Tour, so we are delighted to have agreed this fixture.


“A Lions Test is one of the most iconic events in world sport, but a huge number of fans from the home nations never get the chance to see one live. The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup match will give even more supporters the opportunity to be part of the next chapter in Lions history.
“It will be an ‘I was there’ moment, against an entertaining and highly-respected opposition.”


​Japan head coach Jamie Joseph is also relishing the prospect of the fixture: “We are very much looking forward to playing a Test against the Lions next year.
“It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players, and we can’t wait for it to come.”


Scottish Rugby’s 67,000-seater stadium in Edinburgh will host only the third Lions Test match on ‘home’ soil, following games in Cardiff against Argentina in 2005 and against a Rest of the World XV in 1986. Mark Dodson, chief executive of Scottish Rugby and Lions board director, believes the iconic ground will provide an ideal backdrop for the Test.


“The deep connection Scotland enjoys with the British & Irish Lions has helped to shape the rich history of the team with players, coaches and support staff all contributing to the success of the side down the years,” said Dodson.


The Lions’ lead partner, Vodafone, who announced their partnership earlier in the year, are excited to be supporting the fixture. Max Taylor, commercial director, Vodafone UK said, “We are proud to be part of this incredible rugby moment and to be able to give home fans the opportunity to experience the full force of the Lions on UK soil.”


The Lions’ eight-game tour to South Africa kicks off on Saturday 3 July 2021 when they play Vodacom Super Rugby’s DHL Stormers in Cape Town. Three weeks later the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg will host the first Test – a venue which previously hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final.


The second Test follows on Saturday 31 July at the Cape Town Stadium – the first Lions Test in the Mother City since 1997 – before the British and Irish tourists return to Gauteng for the final Test on Saturday 7 August at Emirates Airline Park, the venue of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final.


The Lions have toured South Africa on 13 previous occasions, with the first Tour taking place in 1891. In that time, the Lions have won four Test series, lost eight with one drawn. Their overall record against the Springboks is played 46, won 17, lost 23 and drawn six.

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British & Irish Lions

Lions and Scotland great Doddie Weir dies aged 52

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Scotland and British & Irish Lions great Doddie Weir has passed away at the age of 52 after a long battle with motor neurone disease.

One of his country’s all-time greats, Weir won 61 caps for Scotland and was selected for the 1997 Lions Tour of South Africa.

His Tour was cut short by a serious knee injury suffered while playing against Mpumalanga Province, but despite returning home prior to the Tests – with the Lions beating the world champions 2-1, Weir singled out that experience as one of the best of his career.

Weir was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2017, with his charity, the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation having raised more than £5 million pounds since being launched.

A statement from the Weir family said: “It is with great sadness that we announced the death of our beloved husband and father, Doddie.

“Doddie was an inspirational force of nature. His unending energy and drive, his strength of character powered him through his rugby and business careers and, we believe, enabled him to fight the effects of MND for so many years.

“Doddie put the same energy and even more love and fun into our lives together, he was a true family man. Whether working together on the farm, on holiday, or celebrating occasions with wider family and friends, Doddie was always in the thick of it. We are lucky to have shared our lives with him and we cherish all those memories: his love and warmth, his support and advice, his quick wit and his terrible jokes. It is difficult to put into words how much we will miss him.

“MND took so much from Doddie, but never his spirit and determination. He battled MND so bravely and whilst his own battle may be over, his fight continues through his foundation, until a cure is found for all those with this devastating disease.”

Weir made his Scotland debut in 1990 and was a mainstay of the side for much of the decade, making his final appearance in the 2000 Six Nations against France.

Instantly recognisable for his galloping gait, the great Bill McLaren once described Weir as “on the charge like a mad giraffe.”

As incredible as Weir’s exploits were during his career, what he has done since has arguably been even greater.

After being diagnosed with MND, Weir set up a foundation to raise funds for research into a cure for MND and to provide grants to people living with the condition.

And in the five years since, it has raised more than £5 million for that objective, and will continue to fund research into a cure.

All those at the British & Irish Lions offer their condolences to the Weir family.

Source – British & Irish Lions


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Tributes pour in for Lion and rugby legend Eddie Butler

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Tributes have been paid to British & Irish Lion #601 and iconic broadcaster Eddie Butler, who has died aged 65.

Butler was called up to The British and Irish Lions squad that toured New Zealand in 1983, replacing Jeff Squire, and made one appearance.

The No.8 played 16 times for Wales and captained them on six occasions, scoring two tries.

He was a legend at his club side Pontypool, captaining the team between 1982 and 1985, and, after retiring from rugby, he carved out a remarkable career in journalism, broadcasting and commentary.

Tributes have already started pouring in to honour a great of the game, with World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont calling Butler one of the finest commentators of his time.

After beginning his journalism career with the Sunday Correspondent in 1988, Butler began writing for The Observer in 1991.

He joined BBC Wales in 1990, starting his commentary career alongside Bill McLaren before becoming the lead BBC rugby commentator.

His partnership with former Lions and England hooker Brian Moore received widespread acclaim and his commentary partner tweeted that he admired Butler as a broadcaster and as a man.

Butler’s montage-accompanying prose was the backdrop not only to sporting events but to some of the biggest news stories of the last two decades.

The final one he made marked the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

He commentated on Olympic sports, as well as the Invictus Games, and also put his voice to montages for the BBC’s NFL highlights programmes. He also published three novels and two non-fiction books.

Two-time Tour captain and fellow broadcaster Sam Warburton said: “Stunned at the news and passing of Eddie Butler. Thoughts with his family.

“What an amazing contribution to rugby and broadcasting. A privilege to have played and co-commentated with his voice.”

Scott Quinnell, who toured with the Lions in 1997 and 2001, said: “Absolutely devastated to hear the news. Eddie was such a wonderful man. Always loved our chats especially over a pint. Love and thoughts to Sue and the family.”

Source – British & Irish Lions


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Tommy Bowe to become trustee of The British & Irish Lions Charitable Trust

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Tommy Bowe has been announced as a trustee of The British & Irish Lions Charitable Trust.

He will join Gavin Hastings, Richard Hill and Sam Warburton as trustees. The Trust exists to connect with, nurture and support Lions players in need whilst also supporting a host of charities annually.

Tommy is #Lion752, having represented the Lions on the 2009 and 2013 tours to South Africa and Australia respectively. He enjoyed a lengthy and hugely successful international career with Ireland and played his club rugby with Ulster and Ospreys. He was nominated as a trustee by the IRFU to succeed Fergus Slattery.

“It’s such a privilege to be made a trustee of The British & Irish Lions Trust and I feel incredibly honoured,” said Bowe. “The Trust does so much good work and I really look forward to getting involved, helping Lions in need and working on various charity initiatives.”

British & Irish Lions MD Ben Calveley said: “People know the Lions best for what we do on the field, but what we do off the field is of equal importance.

“The British & Irish Lions Charitable Trust does so much important work for those in need. Tommy is a wonderful addition to the Trust and as a trustee I have no doubt that he will help to drive forward this good work.”

Gavin Hastings, Chairman of The British & Irish Lions Charitable Trust said: “One of the key aims of The British & Irish Lions is to have an impact off the pitch, and we are really proud and pleased to continue supporting our Lions post retirement through The British & Irish Lions Charitable Trust.

“Tommy is a great addition as a trustee – he will bring a wealth of experience and enthusiasm and I know I speak for my fellow trustees when I say that we’re really looking forward to working with him. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Fergus Slattery who has been great to work with on the Trust and I wish him all the best for the future.”

Source – British & Irish Lions


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