The earliest tours date back to 1888, when a 21-man squad visited Australia and New Zealand. The squad drew players from England, Scotland and Wales, though English players predominated. The 35-match tour of two host nations included no tests, but the side played provincial, city and academic sides, winning 27 matches. They played 19 games of Australian rules football, against prominent clubs in Victoria and South Australia, winning six and drawing one of these.
The 1888 British Isles tour to New Zealand and Australia was a tour by a British rugby union team, known at the time as the "English Footballers", throughout New Zealand and Australia. Although a private venture not organised by any official body, this was the first major tour of the Southern Hemisphere undertaken by a European rugby team. It paved the way for future tours by teams which are now known as British and Irish Lions.
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The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup has been created especially for the match against Japan. It commemorates the first British Lions tour. The Lions last played at home in 2005 in Cardiff but the cup was not in existence then.
Gilbert Rugby is the official match ball supplier to The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup.