The British Isles travelled to Australia in 1899 and this was possibly the first true Isles team as it contained players from all four home unions, the squad had seven international players with two English, two Irish, two Scottish and one Welsh. The captain was a London clergyman the Rev Matthew Mullineux, a Blackheath player who never won an England cap. The British Isles won the series 3-1, which was remarkable as they lost the first test in Brisbane 13-3. The following week they lost to Queensland, but then went on to win 14 of the 15 final contests and all three of the following internationals.
This tour was also a first like the 1896 tour to South Africa, as the tourists provided the Australians with their inaugural test series. The tour also carried a surprise in that skipper Matthew Mullineux who also managed the team took responsibility for the loss of the first test and so dropped himself for the second, passing the captaincy to England forward Frank Stout. They won this and the rest is history.
Another little known fact from this period was that a number of kiwi players travelled to Australia for the series as the Lions would not visit new Zealand. Off these players 4 were called into the Australian test squad for the last test in an attempt to square the series, one of these was an All Black from 1897 one Bill Hardcastle. Changing allegiance was not uncommon during this period.
Blair Swannell a member of the British Lions in 1899 and 1904, played for Australia in a Test in 1905.