The moment everyone has been waiting for – as the two-month countdown begins – has arrived with the announcement of the 37-man British & Irish Lions squad to tour South Africa.
Under much anticipation from the rugby world, B&I Lions coach Warren Gatland announced his squad on Thursday afternoon with the experienced Alun Wyn Jones leading rugby’ most famous touring side. It will be the Wales skipper’s fourth tour in the famous red jersey, coming full circle to the same country where he made his debut back in 2009.
Jones is the fifth lock in a row to captain the British & Irish Lions to South Africa, following in the footsteps of Willie John McBride (1974), Bill Beaumont (1980), Martin Johnson (1997) and Paul O’Connell (2009).
Springbok fans can look forward to a festival of rugby in the faint hope that there might be an opportunity to see the action live and witness their heroes claim a series win over the B&I Lions for the first time since John Smit’s 2009 vintage, but Gatland has other ideas.
“We believe we’ve picked a squad capable of winning a Test series in South Africa,” said Warren Gatland, head coach.
“Selecting a Lions squad is never easy and, in many ways, this has been the most challenging selection I have been involved in. Over the course of the last three weeks the coaches and I have rigorously debated each position.
“We saw some outstanding performances in the recent Six Nations, so competition for places has been tough with some incredibly tight calls to make.
“However, we are very happy with the squad we have assembled and look forward to meeting up in Jersey in just over a month’s time to start our preparation to take on the World Champions.
“We’ve left out some very talented players, which gives an indication to the strength of this squad and we know how important that stand-by list will be.
“Being selected for a Lions Tour is the greatest honour for a British and Irish player and I congratulate everyone named today.”
British & Irish Lions squad:
Backs (16): Josh Adams (Cardiff, Wales – wing); Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland – centre); Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales – flyhalf); Elliot Daly (Saracens, England – centre); Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales – scrumhalf); Owen Farrell (Saracens, England – flyhalf; Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland – centre); Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland – centre); Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland – fullback); Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland – scrumhalf); Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland – scrumhalf); Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby, Wales – wing); Finn Russell (Racing 92, Scotland – flyhalf); Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland – wing); Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England – wing); Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales – fullback).
Forwards (21): Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland – lock); Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland – loose forward); Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England – hooker); Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England – loose forward); Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland – prop); Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales – loose forward); Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland – prop); Jamie George (Saracens, England – hooker); Iain Henderson (Ulster Rugby, Ireland – lock); Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, England – lock); Maro Itoje (Saracens, England – lock); Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, Wales – lock) (Captain); Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales – prop); Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England – lock); Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales – hooker); Andrew Porter (Leinster Rugby, Ireland – prop); Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England – loose forward); Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland – prop); Justin Tipuric (Ospreys, Wales – loose forward); Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England – prop); Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland – loose forward).