Rugby

British & Irish Lions squad for NZ tour named

2017-04-19 14:30
Sam Warburton (File)

London - Sam Warburton will captain the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand, but there was no place in the 41-man squad for England skipper Dylan Hartley.

The 28-year-old Wales back-rower Warburton, who skippered the combined side on their victorious 2013 tour of Australia, becomes just the second man after England great Martin Johnson (1997 and 2001) to lead the Lions on two tours.

In contrast, New Zealand-born hooker Hartley is the biggest casualty and the third successive England skipper to miss out on Lions selection after Steve Borthwick and Chris Robshaw.

New Zealand-born Lions coach Warren Gatland - who called it "the toughest tour" - gave surprise call-ups on Wednesday to Ireland fullback Jared Payne, England wing Jack Nowell and Wales back-row Ross Moriarty.

Warburton stood down from the Wales captaincy this season and is currently out with a knee injury.

But he is expected to be fit before the squad departs on May 29 for a tour that will feature a three-Test series against world champions New Zealand.

"I had a dinner with all the other former captains last night when it sunk in, the enormity," said Warburton at a news conference after the squad was announced.

"I found out last Thursday when Gats called. I was in a supermarket car park and didn’t believe him at first."

Warburton was the skipper and Gatland, again on secondment from his job as Wales boss, the coach when the Lions won 2-1 in Australia four years ago.

While Hartley was left out, rival England hooker Jamie George was included, along with Ireland captain Rory Best and Wales's Ken Owens.

Six Nations champions England had the largest contingent in an unusually large 41-man squad with 16 players.

Wales had 12 and Ireland 11 with Scotland's two representatives fullback Stuart Hogg and wing Tommy Seymour. 

"There's been healthy debate about the squad and now that it's been announced we need to get behind it 100 percent and get excited about travelling to New Zealand,” said Gatland.

"There's competition for places and there will be players fighting for Test spots with no clear number one, number two or number three in certain positions."

He added: "That's what makes us pretty excited about the quality of the squad going to New Zealand.

"We know how tough it will be - this is the toughest tour."

Gatland's squad will be aiming to become just the second Lions party to win a Test series in New Zealand, with the combined side's lone series success against the All Blacks coming in 1971.

They begin their 10-match tour against a Provincial Union side in Whangarei on June 3, with the first of three Tests against the All Blacks in Auckland on June 24.

"In previous tours the midweek games tended to be a little easier, but when you look at the quality of the opposition we're facing in midweek (which includes all five New Zealand Super Rugby franchises) it's going to be hugely challenging," said Gatland.

"That's why we've taken a few extra players than we did in 2013, we just needed to make sure we have the depth and quality in the squad to make sure we can handle the quality of the sides we're coming up against."

British and Irish Lions 41-man squad for the summer three-Test tour of New Zealand announced on Wednesday:

Backs

Fullback/wings: Elliot Daly (ENG), Anthony Watson (ENG), Lee Halfpenny (WAL), Liam Williams (WAL), George North (WAL), Stuart Hogg (SCO), Jack Nowell (ENG), Jared Payne (IRL), Tommy Seymour (SCO)

Centres: Ben Te'o (ENG), Jonathan Davies (WAL), Owen Farrell (ENG), Robbie Henshaw (IRL), Jonathan Joseph (ENG)

Flyhalves: Jonathan Sexton (IRL), Dan Biggar (WAL)

Scrumhalves: Conor Murray (IRL), Rhys Webb (WAL), Ben Youngs (ENG)

Forwards

Back row: Taulupe Faletau (WAL), Billy Vunipola (ENG), Sam Warburton (WAL, capt), Sean O'Brien (IRL), CJ Stander (IRL), Ross Moriarty (WAL), Peter O'Mahony (IRL), Justin Tipuric (WAL)

Locks: Maro Itoje (ENG), Alun Wyn Jones (WAL), Iain Henderson (IRL), George Kruis (ENG), Courtney Lawes (ENG)

Tighthead props: Tadhg Furlong (IRL), Dan Cole (ENG), Kyle Sinckler (ENG)

Hookers: Jamie George (ENG), Rory Best (IRL), Ken Owens (WAL)

Loosehead props: Mako Vunipola (ENG), Joe Marler (ENG), Jack McGrath (IRL)

Fixtures for the British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand:

June 3: v Provincial Union XV, Whangarei

June 7: v Blues, Auckland

June 10: v Crusaders, Christchurch

June 13: v Highlanders, Dunedin

June 17: v Maori All Blacks, Rotorua

June 20: v Chiefs, Waikato

June 24: 1ST TEST v NEW ZEALAND, Auckland

June 27: v Hurricanes, Wellington

July 1: 2ND TEST v NEW ZEALAND, Wellington

July 8: 3RD TEST v NEW ZEALAND, Auckland

Read more on:    british & irish lions  |  rugby
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