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Black Ferns think Lions tour will be biggest yet

Merewai Durutalo

The future of women's international rugby is looking bright with another pinnacle event being added to the calendar.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

An historic breakthrough for women’s rugby came yesterday when New Zealand Rugby and the New Zealand Black Ferns announced the first British and Irish Lions Women’s Tour in 2027.

Black Ferns first five-eight Patricia Maliepo says what she looks forward to the most is the atmosphere.

She says looking at the previous events that have been held here and the crowds that attended, she thinks this will be bigger.

“This combination of the four top sides in the northern hemispheres so yeah, just the atmosphere, the fans, the vibes, the on-going songs, chants, yeah that’s what I’m looking forward to the most.”

Sports Minister Chris Bishop emphasised that this tour would be the first since the initial British and Irish Lions tour of 1888 136 years ago.

“It is really exciting for New Zealand, it’s really exciting for world rugby as well, as we know 1888 was the first British and Irish Lions Tour and 136 years later they will be coming to New Zealand in 2027 as part of the women’s team.”

Building women’s sport

Bishop says the government is very keen to contribute in making sure that New Zealanders get as many benefits from the event as a nation as possible but to also equally grow the women’s sport, drawing on the legacy benefits for government and wider New Zealand society.

Black Ferns forward coach Vaeluaga Steve Jackson says that this has come out of the blue for them and they had only been told a day or two before the official announcement of the tour that it was potentially coming up.

“But now for it to be here and announced for 2027 is pretty exciting.”

He emphasised that the tour bringing in the first British and Irish Lions Women’s team to

New Zealand is going to be great for the community, New Zealand, tourism and everything in general.

Jackson says the Rugby World Cup next year is what they will be focusing on.

“First and foremost we have a Rugby World Cup to go and defend and some games this year. That’s probably one of the pinnacle events that people can be involved in with women’s rugby, you know it’s pretty exciting.”

Economic benefits

Economic Development Minister Melissa Lee says hosting this event “”will help us to further increase the value and visibility of women’s sport in New Zealand and create new sporting heroes and role models for our younger generation”.

Lee says on-field action will be matched by positive economic benefits as New Zealanders look forward to seeing Kiwis pack stadiums and welcoming the legion of fans who will come to New Zealand for this historic tour.

Lee emphasised the financial investment the government is putting into the event from the Major Events Fund - $3.9 million to support the series of matches being played right across New Zealand in September of 2027.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson says people can see how the organisation is evolving in terms of the support to the women’s game.

“We’re actively involved in a wide range of activities that support New Zealand and New Zealanders in a far broader sense than we ever have historically.”

There are to be three test matches with additional tour matches that will take place across host cities and venues that are yet to be confirmed.

Hero image: Black Ferns squad members Sylvia Brunt, Black Ferns Liana Mikaele-Tu’u and Patricia Maliepo with Economic Development Minister Melissa Lee and Sports Minister Chris Bishop. Photo / Alakihihifo Vailala

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