The British and Irish Lions are a composite team selected from players who are eligible to represent the national teams of England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales. The Lions first toured New Zealand in 1888, but did not play against the New Zealand national team until 1904. Since then they have only won one test series against the All Blacks – in 1971. The side only tours every four years and last played in New Zealand in 2005 when they lost the test series 3–0.
Wales' head coach and 2013 test series winning coach Warren Gatland retained his role as head coach. Former Wales captain Sam Warburton was appointed as tour captain, a role he had in the 2013 Lions tour of Australia.
The ten-match schedule was announced on 9 July 2015, and includes matches against New Zealand Super Rugby franchises for the first time. Previously in New Zealand, the Lions had played provincial sides or combined provincial selections. However this is the first tour to New Zealand where the visit has fallen in the middle of the Super Rugby season.
Initially, the Lions were looking to set up a match against the United States in America to open the tour, much like the Barbarians match in Hong Kong in 2013. However, on 6 July 2015, it was announced the idea had been scrapped due to some American players unable to be released by their clubs to make the match competitive enough. Also, a match versus the Pacific Islanders was proposed in 2014. The opening match of the tour was originally planned to be against a Provincial Union XV, however in March 2016, this was changed to the New Zealand Barbarians following their win over the Māori All Blacks.
Ben Youngs was initially selected in the squad but withdrew on 6 May due to personal reasons.
Billy Vunipola withdrew from the squad on 21 May after suffering an ankle injury while playing for his club Saracens.
Notes: Ages listed are as of the first tour match on 3 June. Bold denotes that the player was selected for a previous Lions squad. Italic denotes a player that has withdrawn from the squad following selection.
On 30 July 2014, former English international player John Spencer was named tour manager.
On 7 September 2016, Warren Gatland retained his coaching duties from 2013 and named his assistants on 7 December 2016.Steve Borthwick, Andy Farrell and Rob Howley were named as Gatland's assistants, with this being Howley's fifth tour having both toured as a player (1997 & 2001) and coach (2009 & 2013). For Farrell this will be his second tour and it will be a first for Borthwick.
Land Rover and Ernst & Young (EY) are Principal Partners of the Lions while Standard Life is the main sponsor for the Lions, sponsoring their shirts on tours.Canterbury takes over from Adidas, ending a 18-year association, and Rhino will continue to supply training aids. Thomas Pink will supply the official formal and evening wear for the team and Vivomed will be the official medical provider for the third consecutive tour. Members of The Telegraph will tour with the team, providing media content from both camps. Following on from a successful partnership in 2013, Australia's national airliner Qantas will provide transports to and from Britain and New Zealand and during the tour.