London - British
and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton topped the sporting stars who
featured in Britain's traditional New Year Honours list announced on Friday.
The 29-year-old captained the Lions in a 1-1 series draw with rugby
union world champions New Zealand in June and July, having also
skippered the Lions in their 2-1 series win over Australia in 2013.
He received the Order of the British Empire (OBE), and his award will
come as a welcome fillip with the Welsh back row forward recovering
from neck surgery.
England's women's Cricket World Cup-winning team were also
recognised, including captain Heather Knight, who like Warburton was
awarded an OBE.
The 27-year-old confessed to being "blown away" by the "massive honour".
"When I was a young girl playing cricket for my brother's team in
Plymouth, I couldn't have imagined that one day I would get an honour
for captaining my country to a successful World Cup," said Knight, whose
team beat India in the final at Lord's.
"It just shows what's possible, and hopefully young girls pursuing sport today will see that it can take you places."
Coach Mark Robinson also picked up an OBE while two other players,
Anya Shrubsole and Tammy Beaumont, were made Members of the British
Warburton was not the only rugby personality to pick up an award as legendary Scotland prop Ian McLauchlan was awarded an OBE.
Now 75, McLauchlan, known as 'Mighty Mouse', is regarded as one of
the finest props of all time, earning eight Lions caps and 43 for his
country. He captained Scotland 19 times.
Iconic 67-year-old horse racing trainer Nicky Henderson - fresh from
his Mighty Bite winning the prestigious King George VI steeplechase on
Tuesday - was made a Royal Victorian Order Lieutenant (LVO).
Recipients of Britain's famous honours system are chosen twice a year, on the Queen's birthday and ahead of the new year.
Anybody can nominate someone for one of the various accolades, which
range from peerages to knighthoods and CBEs honouring national or
regional roles, to OBEs and MBEs aimed at more local achievements.