(Reuters) - The British and Irish Lions are to award ceremonial caps to every player who has featured in a competitive match for the touring side, the team said in a statement.
A total of 835 players, 419 living and the next of kin of 416 deceased members, would receive the caps along with a recognition letter from Lions chairman Tom Grace, it said.
The hand-stitched caps will bear each player’s unique playing number, and the recognition comes ahead of the 130th anniversary of the team’s first game against Otago on April 28 1888.
“We are recognising the contribution of all those who have crossed the touchline in a Lions jersey since 1888,” Grace said.
“It is a mark of respect for those who have contributed to this most loved touring team – a team that holds a special place in the hearts of players and fans alike.”
Made up of players from the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish unions, the Lions rotate tours to New Zealand, South Africa and Australia every four years.
Grace, who toured with the Lions in 1974, also awarded caps to the Lions’ oldest living captain Ronnie Dawson, whose playing number is 388, and the youngest captain Sam Warburton, who led the 2013 and 2017 tours.
“It feels like the missing piece of the jigsaw to add your Lions cap to go with your others, your international and your club caps,” Warburton said. “This makes it all come flooding back, and makes you realise how prestigious a thing it is to play for the Lions.”
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford