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Andy Farrell: No rule that prohibits ineligible Test players from playing for British and Irish Lions

Andy Farrell: "There is no rule as far as the British and Irish Lions are concerned, so everyone is available for selection if form warrants"; Sky Sports will broadcast eighth consecutive Lions tour dating back to 1997 with exclusive rights to 2025 tour of Australia June 28-August 2

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Andy Farrell has told Sky Sports 'there is no rule' which would stop ineligible Test players from playing for the Lions, potentially opening the door to son Owen should a club transfer to France happen

Andy Farrell has told Sky Sports 'there is no rule' which prohibits ineligible Test players from playing for the British & Irish Lions, opening the door for the likes of Henry Arundell, Joe Marchant, and potentially his son Owen Farrell. 

Ireland head coach Farrell was announced on Thursday as the 2025 British and Irish Lions head coach for the tour to Australia, live on Sky Sports between June 28-August 2.

England and Ireland's current selection policies mean only players who play their club rugby within the country can play for the Test side, marking any players abroad as ineligible. Wales' current policy states players abroad must already have at least 25 caps (changed from 60 in February 2023).

The financial struggles of England's Premiership clubs saw the collapse of three last season in Worcester, Wasps and London Irish, with more and more players taking up opportunities and higher wages abroad.

Farrells, Lions 2017
Image: Farrell's son Owen has been in negotiations with French club Racing 92 - a move which would end his England career

Such a situation has left England with quality players such as wing Arundell, centre Marchant, back-row Jack Willis and lock David Ribbans currently ineligible for selection, while Owen Farrell - who has stepped away from international rugby for the 2024 Six Nations to prioritise his and his family's mental wellbeing - has been linked with a transfer to Racing 92 in France.

"There is no rule as far as the British and Irish Lions are concerned, so everyone is available for selection if form warrants that," Farrell exclusively told Sky Sports.

England's Henry Arundell scored five tries in their 71-0 World Cup win over Chile (PA Images)
Image: Despite shining at club level, and showing his promise at Test level, wing Henry Arundell is currently ineligible for England

"100 per cent [club form and international pedigree of players not playing Test rugby would be enough], but ultimately it has to be right for the team. The team comes first and that's all that matters.

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"He's [Owen Farrell] a big boy, he makes decisions for what's right for himself and his family and I support him in that.

"I'm leaving that [Farrell's potential transfer to Racing 92] to the powers that be as you can imagine."

Image: Owen Farrell has stepped away from international rugby for the 2024 Six Nations to prioritise his and his family's mental wellbeing

Of his appointment, Farrell spoke of his pride and happiness at being given the role, while reflecting on his involvements as defence coach on the 2013 and 2017 Lions tours to Australia and New Zealand respectively.

"It means everything," Farrell said. "It fills me with pride and it's a massive honour for myself and my family to be considered to take on this role. To be appointed and have a day like today is a great buzz.

"We'll see how we get on but it certainly excites me. Just talking in the press conference today in regards to the memories in the years I was involved is spine-tingling.

"When you've been involved and you understand what it is, it means a little bit more to get back to that type of feeling again. It will be super-exciting for me over the next 18 months.

"Winning is pretty important. Winning the final Test in 2013 meant an awful lot, and staying in the fight in New Zealand (2017), winning the second Test and bittersweet in the third Test as far as drawing, but more the camaraderie and feeling of being a British and Irish Lion is pretty special. Life is all about memories, and it really does epitomise what rugby is all about.

"You look at the Six Nations and the rivalry is there to be seen by everyone. That's why the Six Nations is extra special. But when you see a Lions team being selected and all those nations coming together as one and putting on the red shirt, seeing the sea of red, and embracing what that's like to be one group and push in the same direction just for the cause is special."

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Farrell told media becoming the 2025 British and Irish Lions head coach 'means the world' and is 'special, magical, beyond words and a dream come true'

And of his memorable 'hurt arena' pre-match talk to players on the 2013 tour? Farrell says that moment actually embarrasses him now.

"I'm pretty embarrassed by that speech really. It was more theatrical stuff than anything else.

"Hopefully I've mellowed a little bit and more used to being my natural self. And that's what has to come out so people can follow that."

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Watch back Farrell's passionate speech when he was the defence coach during the 2013 Lions tour

Farrell also confirmed to Sky Sports he has put no timescale on the appointments of his backroom staff for the 2025 tour.

"I won't be putting a timescale on it at all. I'll be patient enough to make sure we give time for me to be able to have the right conversations. To be able to see how people grow or don't grow, and how people deal with certain situations.

"Hopefully [a blend of nationalities], but that's not a necessity. It has to be what's right for the team. That's my job, to make sure we get the right characters and right type of tactical and technical nous.

"No I haven't [sounded anyone out yet]. Questions have to be asked and conversations will happen in due course."

British and Irish Lions 2025 tour schedule

Date Opponent Venue
Saturday, June 28 Western Force Perth
Wednesday, July 2 Queensland Reds Brisbane
Saturday, July 5 NSW Warratahs Sydney
Wednesday, July 9 ACT Brumbies Canberra
Saturday, July 12 Invitational AU-NZ Adelaide
Saturday, July 19 AUSTRALIA (first Test) Brisbane
Wednesday, July 22 Melbourne Rebels Melbourne
Saturday, July 26 AUSTRALIA (second Test) Melbourne
Saturday, August 2 AUSTRALIA (third Test) Sydney

Sky Sports to show 2025 British & Irish Lions tour of Australia

Sky Sports will exclusively show the 2025 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia, with all three Tests and six warm-up matches to be shown live.

The agreement sees Sky Sports broadcast its eighth consecutive Lions Tour, with the partnership starting in 1997 with the iconic 2-1 series win over South Africa.

The Lions tasted success the last time they were on Australian soil in 2013, with a dramatic 2-1 series win following a memorable performance in the decisive final Test.

Having been defeated in a Covid-impacted tour of South Africa back in 2021, the Lions will be aiming to make it a second successive series win in Australia as they kick off the first Test at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.

The Lions will play nine games on tour all around Australia, beginning against Western Force in Perth on June 28, 2025.

Further tour games follow against Queensland Reds in Brisbane on July 2, the Waratahs in Sydney on July 5, the Brumbies in Canberra on July 9, an Invitational Australia & New Zealand side in Adelaide on July 12 and the Rebels in Melbourne on July 22.

That game will take place after the opening Test in Brisbane on July 19, with the second Test at the MCG in Melbourne on July 26 and the final Test in the Accor Stadium in Sydney on August 2.

Lions to play in Ireland for first time ahead of 2025 Australia tour

The Lions will also play in Ireland for the first time as they take on Argentina in a June 2025 warm-up fixture, also live on Sky Sports, ahead of their tour of Australia.

The fixture against Argentina at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Friday June 20 follows the Lions beating Japan in an inaugural 1888 Cup contest in Edinburgh ahead of their 2021 tour of South Africa.

"The opportunity to play in Dublin at Aviva Stadium in front of over 50,000 Lions fans will make for a great occasion and the perfect send-off," Lions chief executive Ben Calveley said.

"British & Irish Lions Tours have a rich heritage built over 130 years of touring but alongside our strong history which we are very proud of, it is important that we look for ways in which to evolve our Tours."

While the last of the Lions' three tours of Argentina came in 1936, the last fixture between the sides ended in a 25-25 draw as they faced off in Cardiff in 2005.

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