Sam Warburton will captain the British and Irish Lions for a second consecutive series after coach Warren Gatland unveiled his 41-man squad for the daunting tour of New Zealand this summer. The Wales flanker beat-off competition from fellow-countryman Alun Wyn Jones and Ireland's Rory Best to become just the second man to skipper the team in two tours after Martin Johnson in 1997 and 2001.
The Cardiff Blues back row forward captained the Lions in the first and second Tests against Australia four years ago, but injury denied him a chance of playing in the decider in Sydney. Wyn Jones, who has since replaced the 28-year-old as Wales captain, stood in for the third test and joins a squad high on power and physical prowess.
The headline exclusion from the squad is the England captain Dylan Hartley, who joins the likes of Chris Robshaw and Steve Borthwick in being omitted despite being the leader of the richest northern hemisphere nation. The fulcrum of the Red Rose team who won successive Six Nations have also missed out including Joe Launchbury and George Ford, as well the fit-again Robshaw and James Haskell.
"We're very happy about the quality of the squad and the group of the players we've put together," said Gatland. "It has probably been the hardest one we've had [to select] but we think it's the strongest one. There has been healthy debate about the squad and it now time to get behind the team going to New Zealand.
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"The guys have said before that the competition for places, there has to be guys fighting for test spots. That is what makes us pretty excited about the quality of the squad going to New Zealand. This will be toughest tour. Previous tours the early games look to be easier but if you look at the quality of the teams that is why we've settled a few more names to handle the quality of the sides we've coming up against."
British and Irish Lions fixtures [8:35am BST kick-off time unless otherwise stated]
Saturday 3 June: Provincial Union XV - Toll Stadium, Whanharei
Wednesday 7 June – Blues – Eden Park, Auckland
Saturday 10 June – Crusaders – AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Tuesday 13 June – Highlanders – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Saturday 17 June – New Zealand Maori – International Stadium, Rotorua
Tuesday 20 June – Chiefs– Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Saturday 24 June – New Zealand– First Test, Eden Park, Auckland
Tuesday 27 June – Hurricanes – Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Saturday 1 July – New Zealand – Second Test, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Saturday 8 July – New Zealand – Third Test, Eden Park, Auckland
Among the surprise inclusions by Gatland is England pair Ben Te'o and Kyle Sinckler - who have made one international start between them. Irish pair Ross Moriarty and Jared Payne can also consider themselves fortunate to make the trip. Jonathan Joseph is selected, having scored a hat-trick against Italy in the Six Nations, despite initial suggests he would be omitted. There is no place for 30-year-old Jamie Roberts or Ireland's Jamie Heaslip both whom stared four years ago.
Littered in Gatland's squad are players who made little impact during the spring but whose physicality could give them the edge when faced with the double defending world champions, who have not lost a series against the Lions since 1971. England's Jack Nowell and Joe Marler, Wales' Dan Biggar, Jonathan Davies and Taulupe Faletau are all been included despite coming under pressure from in-form competition.
There is also no place for Garry Ringrose despite his form for Ireland and Leinster. Scotland scrum half Grieg Laidlaw, injured during the Championship, misses out too in a wafer-thin offering from north of the border with Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour the only Scots enlisted.
British and Irish Lions 2017 squad
Forwards: Rory Best, Dan Cole, Taulepe Faletau, Tadhq 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, Tommy Seymour, Johnny Sexton, Ben Te'o, Anthony Watson, Rhys Webb, Liam Williams, Ben Youngs.
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