Saturday 18 November 2017

Zebo and Best fail to make Lions squad but nine Irish travel

<b>In Pictures: Lions Squad 2013</b><br/>Warren Gatland's Lions squad was announced this morning. Above we have the full 37-man panel
In Pictures: Lions Squad 2013
Warren Gatland's Lions squad was announced this morning. Above we have the full 37-man panel
Sam Warburton of Wales. Flanker; Age 24; Tests 38; Lions Tests 0. Lions captain for 2013. He has lost to Australia every time he has faced them.
Leigh Halfpenny of Wales. Full-back; Age 24; Tests 44; Lions Tests 0. Another who brings Lions experience after touring South Africa in 2009. Unflappable under the high ball and capable of booting penalties from 50m.
Stuart Hogg of Scotland. Full-back; Age 20; Tests 15; Lions Tests 0. Unlikely to break into the team but a handy performer all the same. Has emerged as a real attacking force for Scotland.
Rob Kearney of Ireland. Full-back; Age 27; Tests 46 Lions Tests 3; The Leinster man brings valuable experience to a widely inexperienced back-three. At his best, he is one of the best full-backs in the world.
George North of Wales. Wing; Age 21; Tests 31; Lions Tests 0 One of Gatland's prize possessions. The winger, at 6ft 4in 17st 2lb, possesses impressive skills and technique for a man of his size.
Alex Cuthbert of Wales. Wales, Wing; Age 23; Tests 18; Lions Tests 0. Injured his hamstring in the first half against England but still managed to score two tries. That made him the Six Nations' top try-scorer. A bruising physical presence at 6ft 6in and 17st.
Tommy Bowe of Ireland. Wing; Age 29; Tests 51; Lions Tests 3. Another whose fitness will shape the team. His season has been plagued by a knee injury but his record speaks for itself. An impressive 26 tries in 51 games for Ireland and started all three Lions Tests in 2009.
Sean Maitland of Scotland. Wing; Age 24; Tests 5; Lions Tests 0. Went to the same school in New Zealand as Warren Gatland so he knows all about Southern Hemisphere rugby. Top scorer in Super Rugby two years running and solid in defence.
Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland. Centre. Age 34 Tests 125; Lions Tests 6. Worth including for his experience alone. At his best he remains a game-changer who can exercise a huge influence on younger talents around him.
Manu Tuilagi of England. Centre Age 21; Tests 21; Lions Tests 0. This could be his moment to really announce his arrival in midfield. Can be the team's danger man if they find a way to use him effectively.
Jamie Roberts of Wales. Centre; Age 26; Tests 53; Lions Tests 2. Man of the tour in 2009, offers an intelligent and physical option. Similar player to Tuilagi so it might be a case of either or in midfield.
Jonathan Davies of Wales. Centre; Age 25; Tests 36; Lions Tests 0. An solid talent in midfield but not blessed with the physical attributes of Jamie Roberts and Manu Tuilagi. Makes up for his shortfalls with superior handling and an eye for a hole.
Owen Farrell of England. Fly-half; Age 21; Tests 16; Lions Tests 0. Offers composure beyond his years. Attack is improving and the youngster is confrontational in defence, reliable with the boot and capable of covering the centres.
Jonathan Sexton of Ireland. Fly half; Age 27; Tests 36; Lions Tests 0. Talisman of the great Leinster side and key component of Ireland. Likely Lions starter if fit. Solid in defence and attack with pinpoint distribution to unleash his outside men.
Conor Murray of Ireland. Scrum half. Age 24; Tests 19; Lions Tests 0. Feisty Munster scrum-half who has established himself as first-choice in the Irish team. Very aggressive around the fringes. Will start behind Phillips, but could force his way into the team.
Mike Phillips of Wales. Scrum-half; Age 30; Tests 77; Lions Tests 3. His physicality makes him especially dangerous around the fringes. Good distribution skills with niggle and defensive ability to match.
Ben Youngs of England. Scrum-half; Age 23; Tests 33; Lions Tests 0. Sometimes lacks consistency but, when on form, his ability to tap-and-go and make yards is invaluable. Reliable distribution, explosive pace and a solid kicking game make Youngs favourite for a starting place.
Gethin Jenkins of Wales. Prop; Age 32; Tests 98; Lions Tests 5. Hugely experienced in the front-row, he is one of the rocks Gatland will rely on. Dominated Cole in the scrum to set up a solid platform when Wales thumped England last month.
Cian Healy of Ireland. Prop. Age 25; Tests 39; Lions Tests 0. Assuming he keeps his temper, which he didn't when Ireland faced England, his raw strength will be invaluable. Very good with ball in hand.
Mako Vunipola of England. Prop; Age 22; Tests 9; Lions Tests 0. Improved steadily since making his England debut last November. A giant with exciting skills in the loose. This will be the perfect training ground for him to learn in.
Adam Jones of Wales. Prop; Age 32; Tests 88; Lions Tests 2. Superb scrummaging technique, he will rival Cole for the loose-head starting spot. Great character off the field too.
Dan Cole of England. Prop; Age 25; Tests 40; Lions Tests 0. Before the Wales game he might have been seen as a probable starter. But the Leicester man did not look at his most comfortable on that occasion and will need to sharpen up his act to make the team.
Matt Stevens of England. Prop; Age 30; Tests 44. Lions Tests 0. One of the real surprise selections. The 30-year-old went on the 2006 tour, but did not make the Test team. Selected this time on the basis of a storming season for Saracens.
Dylan Hartley of England. Hooker; Age 27; Tests 47; Lions Tests 0. Slipped down the England pecking order in favour of Tom Youngs but the Saints man offers more experience than his compatriot. An irritant on the opposition and reliable in the lineout.
Richard Hibbard of Wales. Hooker; Age 29; Tests 23; Lions Tests 0. Established himself as Wales' first choice hooker in the Six Nations. Returned to fitness after a a recent knee injury. Adds weight to the pack at 17st 13lb.
Tom Youngs of England. Hooker; Age 26; Tests 9; Lions Tests 0. Will relish the chance to go on his first Lions tour. Has developed a good understanding with Parling.
Ian Evans of Wales. Lock; Age 28; Tests 30; Lions Tests 0. The South African-born forward played his way into the team with an impressive Six Nations. His 6ft 8in frame will be important in the line-out.
Richie Gray of Scotland. Lock; Age 23; Tests 31; Lions Tests 0. There is no finer sight in rugby than Gray in full flow, but injury has hampered his performance this season when he has struggled with Sale.
Alun Wyn Jones of Wales. Lock; Age 27; Tests 70; Lions Tests 3. Went on the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa, but will have to fight for his starting place this time round. A huge presence for Wales in the Six Nations.
Paul O'Connell of Ireland. Lock; Age 33; Tests 85; Lions Tests 6. At his best, O'Connell is a formidable operator. He inspires all those around him and can become one of the really big players for the Lions.
Geoff Parling of England. Lock; Age 29; Tests 17; Lions Tests 0. The consummate lineout leader who organises it better than anyone else in world rugby. Brings a typical Leicester grunt in spite of his modest appearance and brings the best out of Tom Youngs.
Tom Croft of England. Flanker; Age 27; Tests 38; Lions Tests 3. Recovered from a career threatening back injury to find impressive form with Leicester Tigers. A natural athlete capable of outpacing many backs with an ideal frame for the lineout.
Toby Faletau of Wales. No 8; Age 22; Tests 26; Lions Tests 0. One of the stars of the Six Nations. The Tongan-born No8 has raw strength and deceptive pace and should make the starting line up.
Jamie Heaslip of Ireland. No 8; Age 29; Tests 57; Lions Tests 3. A year ago he might have been seen as a potential captain. But a poor Six Nations means he has to re-establish his formidable reputation all over again.
Dan Lydiate of Wales. Flanker; Age 25; Tests 27; Lions Tests 0. Injuries to ankle and hamstring hampered his season after being named Player of the tournament at the 2012 Six Nations, But he is a fearless back-row who will put his body on the line and tackle all day.
Sean O'Brien of Ireland. Flanker; Age 26; Tests 27; Lions Tests 0. At his best, O'Brien is a formidable force, combining strength with terrific handling ability. Always makes the hard yards.
Justin Tipuric of Wales. Flanker; Age 23; Tests 15; Lions Tests 0. A fine-ball runner with a great turn of pace in attack. Loves to get really involved at the breakdown and gave a polished performance in Wales's 30-3 record victory over England.

Simon Zebo and Rory Best have not made Warren Gatland's 37-man Lions squad but Tommy Bowe, Conor Murray and Jamie Heaslip will be on the plane.

A delighted Heaslip, helped by a stellar performance against Biarritz on Saturday, tweeted: "Dreams do come true..."

Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip had been among those who it was thought was under pressure for a place but he now looks destined to contest the Test number eight jersey with Wales' Toby Faletau.

Wales star Sam Warburton has been named British and Irish Lions captain for this summer's tour of Hong Kong and Australia with Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell overlooked for the post.

There are no places among the 38-man squad announced by Lions manager Andy Irvine in London today for England skipper Chris Robshaw or 2003 World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson, who turned down a place in the squad, Warren Gatland revealed.

But head coach Warren Gatland handed surprise call-ups to Scotland wing Sean Maitland, England prop Mako Vunipola and 2005 Lions tourist Matt Stevens.

Cardiff Blues flanker Warburton, at 24 the youngest Welsh Lions captain in history, will lead a squad comprising 14 of his compatriots.

Warburton led Wales to the 2011 World Cup semi-finals - Wales' best performance for 24 years - and a Six Nations Grand Slam five months later.

After being injured for the opening part of this season's Six Nations, he returned to deliver a man of the match display against Scotland and then starred when Wales inflicted a record 30-3 defeat on England to win the title.

While Wales are celebrating their largest Lions contingent since 16 players travelled to New Zealand 36 years ago, England provide 10 members of Gatland's squad, one more than in South Africa four years ago.

Stevens, who missed the 2009 tour while serving a two-year drugs ban, retired from England duty after the 2011 Rugby World Cup but has been included as one of three tight-head options.

There are nine Irishmen in the travelling squad but there was no place for Ulster hooker Rory Best, with England's Dylan Hartley and Tom Youngs selected along with Wales' Richard Hibbard.

Scotland provide three players - the New Zealand-born wing Maitland, lock Richie Gray and full-back Stuart Hogg.

Warburton admitted he had known about the news for some time, saying: "Warren gave me a call, it's been nine or 10 days since I found out and the biggest secret I've had to keep.

"It's unbelievable, an accolade very few people achieve and it's an unbelievable honour."

Gatland said: "In the last two or three years he's been the most successful captain in the northern hemisphere.

"I have a huge amount of respect for Sam, he's an absolute professional and he leads from the front."

Gatland admitted it had been tough to leave out the likes of Robshaw and Wilkinson.

"There was a robust debate about the squad and there were healthy discussions for every position," he said.

"Some real quality players have missed out. We had a thorough process and it's been tough."

He did offer hope to those left out, however, saying: "If you look at previous tours six to eight players get injured and there will be a group of back-up players who can be called upon."

Much of Gatland's squad was as expected, spearheaded by the likes of Ireland centre Brian O'Driscoll, who is on his fourth successive Lions tour, 2009 captain Paul O'Connell and Wales prop Adam Jones.

But there are also opportunities for a new generation of Lions, players such as Wales trio George North, Alex Cuthbert and Justin Tipuric, England pair Manu Tuilagi and Owen Farrell and Ireland prop Cian Healy.

Gatland's squad is split into 16 backs and 21 forwards and four weeks today the party will leave for Hong Kong where they open the 10-match tour against the Barbarians on June 1.

The Lions then head to Australia with the first of three Tests against the Wallabies in Brisbane on June 22.

Robshaw becomes the third England captain of the professional era to be overlooked by the Lions, following Phil de Glanville in 1997 and Steve Borthwick four years ago.

It is particularly rough justice on the Harlequins flanker who led England to within one win of the Six Nations title and the Grand Slam this season.

Other notable absentees from the England fold include Tom Wood, Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt, Joe Launchbury, Ben Morgan and Danny Care.

Wales, though, will send to Australia 14 of the starting line-up that accounted for England just over six weeks ago.

The exception is Ospreys fly-half Dan Biggar.

Flanker Dan Lydiate has received the nod from Gatland despite being in the early stages of his comeback from a serious ankle injury he suffered playing for Newport Gwent Dragons last September.

Lydiate, the 2012 Six Nations player of the tournament, missed Wales' entire autumn Test series and this year's championship, but Gatland knows full well his capabilities.

Glasgow wing Maitland, 24, has been fast-tracked into the Lions squad after moving from New Zealand this season and making his Scotland debut in the Six Nations.

Maitland qualifies for Scotland through his Glaswegian grand-parents, who emigrated to New Zealand in the 1960s and he has seen off the Ireland wing Simon Zebo, who was strongly fancied to make Gatland's final cut.

Gray and Hogg complete the Scottish contingent but there was no place for their Six Nations captain Kelly Brown in a highly-competitive back row area.

The 37-man British and Irish Lions squad selected by head coach Warren Gatland for the tour of Hong Kong and Australia: L Halfpenny, S Hogg, R Kearney, G North, A Cuthbert, T Bowe, S Maitland, B O'Driscoll, M Tuilagi, J Roberts, J Davies, J Sexton, O Farrell, C Murray, M Phillips, B Youngs, G Jenkins, C Healy, M Vunipola, A Jones, D Cole, M Stevens, D Hartley, R Hibbard, T Youngs, I Evans, R Gray, AW Jones, P O'Connell, G Parling, T Croft, T Faletau, J Heaslip, D Lydiate, S O'Brien, J Tipuric, S Warburton (capt).

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