Great Britain national rugby league team
|Governing body||Rugby Football League|
|Most caps||Mick Sullivan (46)
Garry Schofield (46)
|Top try-scorer||Mick Sullivan (41)|
|Top point-scorer||Neil Fox (228)|
| New Zealand 6–14 Great Britain
(Headingley, Leeds, England, United Kingdom; 18 January 1908)
| Fiji 4–72 Great Britain
(Suva, Fiji; October 1996)
| Australia 64–10 Great Britain
(Sydney, Australia; July 2002)
|Appearances||9 (first time in 1954)|
|Best result||Winners, 1954; 1960; 1972|
The Great Britain national rugby league team represents Great Britain in rugby league football. Administered by the Rugby Football League (RFL), the team is nicknamed "The Lions" or "Great Britain Lions".
In 2006, the RFL announced that after the 2007 All Golds Tour the Great Britain team would no longer compete on a regular basis, and that players would be able to represent England, Wales and Scotland at Test level. It is planned that the Great Britain team will come together in future only for occasional tours, similar to the British and Irish Lions in rugby union.
Great Britain were one of the strongest teams in rugby league, though usually playing second fiddle to Australia. They won the Rugby League World Cup on three occasions: 1954, 1960 and 1972. Since 1995 the RFL have preferred to send the home nations as separate teams for World Cup purposes. Great Britain continued to compete as a test playing nation both home and away (unlike the British and Irish Lions rugby union team, who are a touring team that play every four years). They competed against Australia for the Ashes, and New Zealand for the Baskerville Shield, as well the Tri-Nations series with both Australia and New Zealand. Great Britain also played in series and tours against other nations such as France, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
Titles, selection and identity
The team was originally known as the Northern Union XIII in reference to the name of the sport's governing body. After 1922 the name the Lions was first used. In 1948 the team became known as Great Britain for the Ashes Series. During the 1990s the Rugby Football League expanded this to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the jersey bore the name British Isles XIII. In 2004 the words "...and Northern Ireland" were dropped from the title, though the Irish shamrock continued to form part of the RFL's crest and British Isles XIII remained on the jersey. At matches, the team was represented by the Union Flag and the singing of God Save the Queen, both symbols of the United Kingdom. The practice of a UK-wide team being called Great Britain has a precedent with the Great British Olympic team, though the formal name of the Olympic team includes "and Northern Ireland". The team continued to compete until the 2007 All Golds Tour: henceforth, the Great Britain team will now be reserved for Lions tours of the Southern Hemisphere. According to Richard Lewis, chairman of the Rugby Football League:
- "It will bring consistency. What I am passionate about is the international game being consistent. To me, it has always been illogical that we play as Great Britain for three or four years, and when the World Cup comes along, suddenly we become England. In the major competitions, which will be most years, we will play as England. That will also allow Scotland and Wales to develop. We have then floated the concept of Great Britain to tour in 2010. It would be a tour as opposed to playing a formal competition, and I wouldn't restrict that to just Australia and New Zealand."
Initially Great Britain were represented by a team made up of players from the Northern Rugby Football Union, known simply as the "Northern Union" side. Their first ever match was a win against a touring New Zealand side in January, 1908. The following season Great Britain played host to the Australian side. The Northern Union's first match against the Kangaroos was a 22-all draw.
In June, 1910 the Northern Union embarked on its successful first tour of Australasia.
Great Britain defeated a touring Australian side 2-1 in the 1921–22 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain.
The team travelled to Australia again on the HMS Indomitable in 1946 for the first post-war tour.
In 1954 the first ever Rugby League World Cup was held in France and Great Britain were the winners. They came second in the 1957 World Cup in Australia and history was made when the returning French and British squads visited South Africa and played a series of exhibition matches in Benoni, Durban and East London, all of which were won by the British.
The Lions won the next World Cup in 1960.
In 2002 Great Britain suffered their worst-ever defeat at the hands of the Australians when they went down 64-10 in Sydney.
More recently, Great Britain enjoyed a three nil series whitewash of the touring New Zealand side in the 2007 All Golds tour.
- List of Great Britain national rugby league team players
- England national rugby league team
- Scotland national rugby league team
- Wales national rugby league team
- Ireland national rugby league team
- The Rugby Football League’s International pages
- Unofficial Great Britain Rugby League
- Great Britain & Ireland Student Rugby League Team