By Chris Jones

BBC rugby union correspondent

England captain Sarah Hunter

Sarah Hunter led England to the Grand Slam in the 2019 Women’s Six Nations

A women’s British and Irish Lions team must be adapted so it is something players “can really aspire to be part of”, says England captain Sarah Hunter.

The men’s Lions tour New Zealand, South Africa and Australia; mirroring that would not work in women’s rugby, where top teams include Canada and the USA.

“It would be great to have it, but we need to make sure it fits with the women’s game,” Hunter told BBC Sport.

“Does it need to be in line with the men’s Lions, or does it stand alone?”

The men’s Lions – drawn from the cream of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – have been in existence since 1888.

Lions managing director Ben Calveley said last week it was a matter of “when, not if” a women’s side was formed.

The difficulty of replicating the men’s tours of the southern hemisphere can be seen in the women’s rankings; France, Canada and the USA are in the world’s top five, with South Africa as low as 11th.

“The issue is around finding out how it fits in with the women’s rugby calendar, how it fits in a World Cup year, and who would we get the most competition out of,” Hunter said. “Because it doesn’t necessarily mirror [the men’s game].

“Hopefully it is in the process [of being formed], but logistically how do we make it happen so that it is sustainable and it is something people can really aspire to be part of.”

Calveley, who became the Lions’ first full-time managing director in 2018, said forming a women’s outfit would be a “wonderful thing”.

The Barbarians established a women’s side in 2017, increasing the calls for the Lions to follow suit.

“If you look at women’s sport generally – and women’s rugby is no different – it’s going from strength to strength,” Calveley told Rugby World magazine.

“We had a wonderful Women’s World Cup in Ireland recently and I’m sure the next edition will be similarly fantastic. Then there’s the inclusion in the Olympics of sevens.

“Who doesn’t want to be part of that? It’s in the when-not-if category.”

Hunter added: “The important thing now is to establish something that is in conjunction with the British and Irish Lions but fits for the women’s world game, and hopefully that can become historic and part of the women’s game globally.”

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