England great Leonard 'honoured' by Lions role

Lion king: Jason Leonard (L) pictured at a school rugby event with Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (AFP Photo/Frank Augstein)

London (AFP) - World Cup-winner Jason Leonard said he felt "honoured" to become the new chairman of the British and Irish Lions board after his appointment was announced Thursday.

The former England prop and president of the Rugby Football Union went on three tours with the combined side as player and was a member of the victorious 1997 Lions squad in South Africa.

Leonard, the first player from rugby union's professional era to be appointed to the role, succeeds former Ireland captain Tom Grace and his term in office is set to include the Lions' 2021 tour of South Africa.

"I am honoured to be asked to be the chairman of the British and Irish Lions and I look forward to working with my fellow board members, former Lions and the executive team to make the 2021 Lions tour to South Africa a success on and off the pitch," Leonard told the Lions' website.

"I am excited to build on the great work done by my predecessor Tom Grace and would like to thank him for his guidance and dedication over the last number of years," he added.

British and Irish Lions' managing director Ben Calveley welcomed Leonard to his new post by saying: "I would like to congratulate Jason on his appointment and am looking forward to working closely with him in the coming years.

"His huge experience as a winning Lion respected globally as one of the greats of the game, coupled with his business acumen, will provide us with the insight required to organise a successful tour to South Africa."