World Cup winner Maggie Alphonsi has hailed the prospect of a women's British and Irish Lions team as a game changer for rugby union.
A study, backed by insurance company Royal London, is in motion to see if the trailblazing project is feasible. The findings are expected to be published by the end of the year.
Alphonsi, 37, who won the World Cup with England in 2014 and now works as a pundit, said: "I wish I was still playing because I would love to wear a red jersey.
"The feasibility study is huge for the women's game - not just the potential Lions team - but the investment will help the game grow and it will increase participation.
"Many young girls will see that there is an opportunity to wear the red jersey and that is such a powerful special thing.
"Boys are so lucky to have that so this study provides the opportunity to level the playing field.
"We have got an England women’s team, and a Barbarians side. But to have a Lions side, that’s completely what the game needs."
The news of the landmark study comes as a boost to the women’s game after it was announced earlier this month that the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand - which had been due to take place this autumn - has been delayed by a year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
New Zealand’s borders are currently closed to most travellers.
Emily Scarratt, England’s record-points scorer, the 2019 World Player of the Year and last year’s Six Nations Player of the Championship, said: "It is disappointing.
"As players we were actively training towards it. We planned for it and obviously that has now changed.
"We all understand the reasons for it. We live in a very different world at the moment and things are changing, but the postponement gives us a year to be better.
"We will get back on the horse pretty quickly. The start of the Six Nations is two weeks away so we don’t have a huge amount of time to dwell on it."
Commenting on the prospect of representing the British and Irish Lions, the 31-year old added: "It is honestly so exciting and hopefully you can tell that because I smile and light up every time I talk about it.
"I hope the feasibility study ends in something we can move forward with - but having it in the first place is great, too."
Royal London is the global partner to the Castle Lager Lions Series 2021, The British & Irish Lions and South Africa Rugby and the first principal partner of the Women’s Lions Programme, which enables them to invest in the future of women’s rugby