The long wait is over, as Warren Gatland announced his 2017 British and Irish Lions squad. One which will be discussed, debated and contested–already, the eyes of the world are on the Lions squad heading for New Zealand in June.
41 Players in total: 16 Englishmen, 12 from Wales, 11 Irishmen and just the two Scotsman. But within that group 16 Englishmen, none of them were their test captain. The man who’d led them to consecutive Six Nations Championships, Dylan Hartley, was the biggest ommission.
It's captain Sam Warburton, but no Dylan Hartley.
Lions Squad – The Shock Picks
Previous to the announcement, it had been reported that Welshmen and long-time favourite of Gatland’s Jamie Roberts would travel to New Zealand, while England outside centre Jonathan Joseph would miss out. In fact, Joseph was included, while there was also space for Irish back Jared Payne.
England second-rower Joe Launchbury missed out on what would be his first Lions tour, while Courtney Lawes and the workman like Iain Henderson were able to secure a space on the plane.
What would appear less of a shock, although surprising, was that James Haskell missed out too, as Gatland went for the young back-rower, Ross Moriarty.
But the biggest shock was in the front row department. Having originally been selected for the 2013 tour but missing out through suspension, Dylan Hartley was left out of the 41 man squad. His international understudy, Jamie George, took his place, while Rory Best and Ken Owens made up the rest of the hookers.
The Scotsmen Maybe Flying, but They’re not Going to New Zealand
Just two Scots were selected – outside backs Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour. Hamish Watson, the Gray brothers and Finn Russell were rumoured to be in contention originally, but missed out on a final spot.
In 2013, despite their dire form, three Scotsmen made it into the squad, whereas this time, although they’d reached their highest ever World Ranking (5), Scotland was the least represented nation of the four.
It was the worst kept secret since Gatland’s appointment as Head Coach, but Sam Warburton was confirmed as the captain for a second successive tour. Warburton will miss the next four weeks with a knee injury, but is expected to be fit for the first game of the tour.
“He did a great job in 2013, so he’s the natural choice.”
Full Lions Squad
Back three: Elliot Daly (England), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), George North (Wales), Jack Nowell (England), Tommy Seymour (Scotland), Anthony Watson (England), Liam Williams (Wales)
Centres: Jonathan Davies (Wales), Owen Farrell (England), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Jonathan Joseph (England), Jared Payne (Ireland), Ben Te’o (England)
Fly-halves: Dan Biggar (Wales), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
Scrum-halves: Conor Murray (Ireland), Rhys Webb (Wales), Ben Youngs (England)
Props: Dan Cole (England), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Joe Marler (England), Jack McGrath (Ireland), Kyle Sinckler (England), Mako Vunipola (England)
Hookers: Rory Best (Ireland), Jamie George (England), Ken Owens (Wales)
Second rows: Iain Henderson (Ireland), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), George Kruis (England), Courtney Lawes (England), Maro Itoje (England)
Back-rows: Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Ross Moriarty (Wales), Sean O’Brien (Ireland), Peter O’Mahony (Ireland), CJ Stander (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Billy Vunipola (England), Sam Warburton (Wales)
“Main photo credit”