British & Irish Lions chiefs plan 'step forward' with women's tour

The British & Irish Lions have revealed long-range plans to launch a women's Test team.

Chief operating officer Charlie McEwen believes Lions bosses can start planning a women's team in earnest once discussions are complete on the men's post-2019 global calendar.

The Lions are battling to preserve their 10-match itinerary for future tours as the world's powers thrash out the finer points of the global schedule to run after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

And once those deals are done, McEwen believes the Lions could be ready to press ahead in developing a women's touring squad.

"At some point in the future I think a British & Irish Lions women's team is an important step forward that the Lions should be making," said McEwen.

"There is a place for a women's Lions team, lots of people have been talking about it.

"Whether that's in the next two or three years, whether that's in five, 10 years, who knows?

"I would love to see that plan progressing, and there could potentially be opportunities to tour Canada or New Zealand, as just two examples."

Governing body World Rugby has managed to broker the framework for a more unified future global calendar in a bid to balance needs across both hemispheres.

The Lions will continue to push for extra preparation time for future tours, however, given their first fixture on next month's tour to New Zealand falls just one week after the Aviva Premiership and Guinness PRO12 finals.

Reiterating the Lions' drive to secure extra preparation time, McEwen said he believes the talks continue to move positively.

"First and foremost, the most important thing the Lions has to do is ensure we have a schedule for the next 12 years, and that's progressing with the global season discussions," said McEwen, speaking at the Deltatre Sports Industry Breakfast Club at London's BT Centre.

"First things first, we need to make sure that the Lions is secure for the future, which every intention is going that way.

"Once those conversations have finished and we have a plan for the next 12 years, our next three touring cycles, then I think we can look at other ways for the brand to evolve."