The British and Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand this summer has been announced today.
For the second successive tour, head coach Warren Gatland has named Sam Warburton as his captain of the 41-man squad which is made of 16 English, 12 Welsh, 11 Irish and two Scots.
As reported earlier this week, there is no room for England captain Dylan Hartley with his understudy, Saracens hooker Jamie George, preferred.
George Ford, Joe Launchbury and James Haskell who were impressive in England’s defence of their Six Nations title in recent months have also missed out.
Bath centre Jonathan Joseph has been included and so did Elliot Daly and Jared Payne but Jamie Roberts has been left out alongside Ireland’s rising start Gary Ringrose.
At lock, Courtney Lawes and Ireland’s Iain Henderson have been preferred, alongside Mark Itoje, George Kruis and Alun Wyn Jones, to Wasps captain Joe Launchbury and Scotland’s Jonny Gray.
Gray’s commission, as well as Finn Russell’s, means full-back Stuart Hogg and wing Tommy Seymour are the only Scottish representative in the squad.
“Everyone will get the opportunity. Looking at the potential combinations that we have got, we think it is going to be really competitive,” said.
“The message to the players is that, if you have been selected, then you must go with the confidence that you are good enough to be part of the Test XV.
“Some of them are going to be disappointed that they have missed out but you have got to put your hand up and have that belief, you have to be competitive and fight hard at training and be committed in terms of your contributions in training and meetings.
“There is a huge amount going into that so the message to those players is to come and be part of the squad, but not just to make up the numbers.
“If you are here to just make up numbers then there is no way you are going be part of the Test squad.
“We hope everyone is going out with the attitude that if things go well enough for me I am good enough to start in a Test.
“Sam is a great player, an outstanding leader and a winning Lions captain. We believe that Sam’s experience and leadership qualities make him an obvious choice as captain. He has earned the respect of his peers and coaches through his resilience, tenacity and hard work.”
British and Irish Lions squad:
Forwards: Rory Best, Dan Cole, Taulupe Faletau, Tadhg Furlong, Jamie George, Iain Henderson, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Jack McGrath, Ross Moriarty, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Ken Owens, Kyle Sinckler, CJ Stander, Justin Tipuric, Mako Vunipola, Billy Vunipola, Sam Warburton
Backs: Dan Biggar, Elliot Daly, Jonathan Davies, Owen Farrell, Leigh Halfpenny, Robbie Henshaw, Stuart Hogg, Jonathan Joseph, Conor Murray, George North, Jack Nowell, Jared Payne, Jonathan Sexton, Tommy Seymour, Ben Te’o, Anthony Watson, Rhys Webb, Liam Williams, Ben Youngs
The tour will kick off on June 3 with a clash against a Provincial Union Team while the three-Test series against the All Blacks will start on June 24 with the second and third Tests replaying the following two Saturdays.
Lions tour to New Zealand 2017 – fixtures
Game 1: Saturday, June 3 v Provincial Union Team in Whangarei
Game 2: Wednesday, June 7 v Blues in Auckland
Game 3: Saturday, June 10 v Crusaders in Christchurch
Game 4: Tuesday, June 13 v Highlanders in Dunedin
Game 5: Saturday, June 17 v Maori All Blacks in Rotorua
Game 6: Tuesday, June 20 v Chiefs in Hamilton
Game 7: Saturday, June 24 Fist Test v All Blacks in Auckland
Game 8: Tuesday, June 27 v Hurricanes in Wellington
Game 9: Saturday, July 1 Second Test v All Blacks in Wellington
Game 10: Saturday, July 8 Third Test v All Blacks in Auckland