It’s the first time in nearly 30 years the rugby team has been free-to-air.

British and Irish Lions rugby union logo(1)

Channel 4 has secured the return of the British and Irish Lions to terrestrial television for its tour of South Africa. 

The broadcaster had been strongly linked with the rights, and it is now confirmed it will air the Lions’ pre-tour Test against Japan live from BT Murrayfield on 26 June, in addition to highlights of the three South Africa Tests. Highlights of all the Castle Lager Lions Series Tour matches will be shown on All4. Lee McKenzie will present the coverage.

Sky will broadcast the live matches, which now look set to go ahead after earlier worries over cancellation due to Covid-19.

It is the first time the Lions team has been on terrestrial TV since the 1993 tour of New Zealand, and is the latest high profile event Channel 4 has managed to bring back to free-to-air. It also recently secured the England cricket team’s test series against India, which was the first test cricket in 16 years to be on terrestrial TV.

British & Irish Lions managing director Ben Calveley said: “We are delighted that Channel 4 are our broadcast partners for our first match on home soil since 2005.

“I am looking forward to the excellent coverage and analysis that Channel 4 will no doubt provide and going on the recent squad announcement I’m sure the interest and numbers tuning in will be considerable for this clash.”

Channel 4’s head of sport Pete Andrews added: “This is set to be a mouth-watering contest with Alun Wyn Jones leading the Lions against the reigning World Champions.

“It’s fantastic news for rugby fans who will relish the opportunity of seeing the British & Irish Lions in action on free-to-air television.”