The British & Irish Lions are one of the most storied and beloved institutions in all of rugby. With a heritage that dates back to 1888, and tours that only come around once every four years, the launch of a new Lions shirt is a seriously big deal. It’s a wonderful day friends, because that moment is here again – let’s take a look at the brand spanking new British & Irish Lions jersey that will be worn in New Zealand in 2017.
The first notable thing about this shirt is something you probably already know – after the best part of two decades with Adidas, the Lions have returned to Canterbury. And yes we mean returned – Canterbury has made a Lions jersey before, but that was all the way back in 1958…
But what of the 2017 shirt? Well, the good news is that it’s pretty much everything you could possibly want a Lions jersey to be – traditional and classic in the way that such an iconic and storied jersey should be, but with lots of nice little details that elevate it to something much more.
First up, let’s consider the basic shirt itself. It’s red – which is a good start – and in contrast to the equally lovely 2013 design, there’s no subtle hooping or any of that business, just plain, no messing red.
We also have a proper, honest to goodness collar – something that Canterbury has been experimenting with this season’s Leinster European and away jerseys. Like the 2013 shirt, however, it’s not an entirely conventional design – as the collar moves from front to back, the fold-over bit gets smaller, reducing the ease with which it can be grabbed.
The anti-grab innovations continue on the collar placket itself, where Canterbury’s classic ‘Loop’ design has been modified. While it might look like an open-necked design, there’s actually a small piece of elastic inside the placket to stop an opponent getting in there and gripping the collar, while also keeping things fitted and comfortable.
The low profile collar’s design also has the added bonus of showing off the Lion rampant motif on the back of the neck – this was actually used as the Lions badge in the first half of the 20th century, most recently in 1930, and it was this motif that led to the Lions name becoming widely popularised among fans and media.
It’s a big part of the Lions lore, and as such, we also get a tonal version of the lion etched onto the right sleeve. Another nice touch on the rear of the jersey, which echoes what we saw on some of the training gear, are four coloured bars between the shoulder blades, representing the colours of the four home nations.
Also in common with the training gear, the scroll underneath the famous quartered badge differentiates from tradition here. Rather than stating the name and year of the touring country, it simply says ‘Since 1888’ this time. Instead, the left sleeve has a simple ‘NZ17’ graphic stitched onto the left sleeve.
As with the jersey of the team they’ll be facing next summer, the Lions jersey is one of the most iconic and classic designs in all of rugby, and in a similar way deviating too far from the established formula would not only diminish the legend of the shirt, but also piss off fans no end.
In truth, there was little danger of Canterbury messing this one up – they understand heritage and tradition better than just about any other brand, and they’ve produced a jersey that’s worthy of heritage of that first jersey they produced back in 1958.
With classic looks and subtle modern touches, it’s pretty much everything we hoped to see in a Lions shirt, and we can’t wait to see it on the field in New Zealand next year.