Sam Warburton has been named captain of the 2017 British and Irish Lions to become just the second man to lead to consecutive tours, but there was more heartbreak for England skipper Dylan Hartley after he was left out of Warren Gatland’s squad to take on New Zealand this summer.
The Lions take on the All Blacks in a three-match Test series along with seven warm-up matches against all five Super Rugby sides, the Maori All Blacks and the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, with the tour getting underway on 3 June.
Lions tour manager John Spencer named a 41-man squad on Wednesday afternoon to confirm that Warburton would indeed lead his second successive tour, with the Wales flanker confirming that he found out last week when Gatland phoned him while at the supermarket.
“The wife was getting some bread and milk and I didn’t want to go in because the cashier loves rugby and would ask me about the Lions,” Warburton said. “I actually hung up on Gats the first time because I thought it was the Cardiff boys messing around.”
Warburton was widely expected to lead the tour for a second time under Gatland after captaining the triumphant 2013 series against Australia, and despite suffering a knee injury while playing for the Cardiff Blues earlier this month, the flanker has been given the honour once again to emulate Martin Johnson as the only other man to lead to separate tours.
However, there was no space for Hartley, who despite leading England to back-to-back Six Nations championships and a record-equalling 18-match winning streak, has been left out of the squad, four years after he was removed from the Lions after receiving an 11-week ban for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes in the Premiership final.
With Hartley absent, his England understudy, Jamie George, joins Ireland captain Rory Best and Wales hooker Ken Owens in the squad, but that is not the only surprise decision made by Gatland.
The unpredictable New Zealander has included England centre Ben Te’o alongside another Englishman in Jonathan Joseph.
The Bath centre was initially tipped to be in with a chance of featuring in the Test side, but reports emerged in the lead up to the squad announcement that he had been left out completely
However, Joseph’s name was included among the 41-man party, along with Scotland wing Tommy Seymour who was another man on the fringes heading into the announcement.
Fly-half George Ford, flankers James Haskell and Chris Robshaw, lock Joe Launchbury and full-back Mike Brown has all missed out on selection, despite England winning the Six Nations last month a year after completing the Grand Slam and a series whitewash over Australia.
However, there were surprise inclusions for Wales No 8 Ross Moriarty, and Ireland back Jared Payne.
Props: Dan Cole, Tadhg Furlong, Joe Marler, Jack McGrath, Kyle Sinckler, Mako Vunipola
Hookers: Rory Best, Jamie George, Ken Owens
Locks: Iain Henderson, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes
Flankers: Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton
No 8s: Taulupe Faletau, Ross Moriarty, Billy Vunipola
Scrum-halves: Conor Murray, Rhys Webb, Ben Youngs
Fly-halves: Dan Biggar, Jonathan Sexton
Centres: Jonathan Davies, Owen Farrell, Robbie Henshaw, Jonathan Joseph, Jared Payne, Ben Te’o
Wings: Elliot Daly, George North, Jack Nowell, Tommy Seymour, Anthony Watson
Full-backs: Leigh Halfpenny, Stuart Hogg, Liam Williams