The British and Irish Lions have announced their squad for the upcoming tour of New Zealand and three match test series against the All Blacks.
Coach Warren Gatland named a 41-man squad with Welsh flanker Sam Warburton named captain.
The appointment makes the Welshman only the second player after England great Martin Johnson to lead a Lions side on two different tours.
Earlier in the season, Warburton had stepped down as captain of the Welsh national team, but was still odds on favourite to skipper the famous test side.
Six Nations champions England boast the largest contingent selected in the unusually big 41-man squad with 16 players, followed by Wales with 12, Ireland with 11 and the Scots with 2 respectively.
Following the announcement, Gatland explained why they named such a sizable squad. “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 it’s going to be hugely challenging.”
“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,” he said.
Notable inclusions in the squad feature two New Zealand-born players, with former NRL star Ben Te’o, and former Northland representative Jared Payne being selected.
While surprise omissions from the squad come in the form of England captain Dylan Hartley, making him the third consecutive English captain to not be selected for a Lions tour.
The exclusion of Hartley makes way for fellow countryman Jamie George, who was selected along with Rory Best and Ken Owens as the squad’s hooker’s.
Other noteworthy omissions include; Joe Launchbury, George Ford, James Haskell and Chris Robshaw, who were all part of England’s Six Nations title win.
The tour kicks-off in Whangarei at Toll Stadium on the 3rd of June where the Lions will be up against a Provincial Barbarians XV, where son of Lions coach, and Blues first-five Bryn Gatland has been selected.
2017 British & Irish Lions squad:
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)
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