British and Irish Lions 2017: Sam Warburton captain for New Zealand tour

England 16, Wales 12, Ireland 11, Scotland 2

Head coach Warren Gatland today unveiled the 41 man squad for the 2017 British and Irish Lions Tour to New Zealand.

Sam Warburton of Cardiff Blues and Wales will lead the Lions for a second consecutive Tour, an honour only ever achieved once before by Martin Johnson in 1997 and 2001.

Warburton will be supported by a number of former Lions with two players on their third and 14 on their second Tour.

The squad consists of 22 forwards and 19 backs, with Maro Itoje the youngest player at the age of 22.

Gatland, who spoke to Warburton on Thursday afternoon last week, explained: “Sam is a great player, an outstanding leader and a winning Lions captain. We believe that Sam’s experience and leadership qualities make him an obvious choice as captain.  He has earned the respect of his peers and coaches through his resilience, tenacity and hard work.”

On the eve of the announcement Warburton attended a private dinner with all the living Lions captains in the Hilton Syon Park.

He said: “Being in the same room as so many Lions legends was an amazing experience.  I feel humbled and extremely proud to be given the opportunity to captain the Lions for a second Tour and look forward to playing the world champions on their own turf with the best players of the UK and Ireland at my side.”

British and Irish Lions squad:

Backs: Dan Biggar – Ospreys, Wales, Elliot Daly – Wasps, England, Jonathan Davies – Scarlets, Wales, Owen Farrell – Saracens, England, Leigh Halfpenny – Toulon, Wales, Robbie Henshaw – Leinster Rugby, Ireland Stuart Hogg – Glasgow Warriors, Scotland, Jonathan Joseph – Bath Rugby, England Conor Murray – Munster Rugby, Ireland, George North – Northampton Saints, Wales, Jack Nowell – Exeter Chiefs, England Jared Payne – Ulster Rugby, Ireland Jonathan Sexton – Leinster Rugby, Ireland, Tommy Seymour – Glasgow Warriors, Scotland Ben Te’o – Worcester Warriors, England Anthony Watson – Bath Rugby, England Rhys Webb – Ospreys, Wales Liam Williams – Scarlets, Wales Ben Youngs – Leicester Tigers, England

Forwards: Rory Best – Ulster Rugby, Ireland, Dan Cole – Leicester Tigers, England, Taulupe Faletau – Bath Rugby, Wales, Tadhg Furlong – Leinster Rugby, Ireland Jamie George – Saracens, England Iain Henderson – Ulster Rugby, Ireland Maro Itoje – Saracens, England Alun Wyn Jones – Ospreys, Wales, George Kruis – Saracens, England Courtney Lawes – Northampton Saints, England Joe Marler – Harlequins, England Jack McGrath – Leinster Rugby, Ireland Ross Moriarty  – Gloucester Rugby, Wales Sean O’Brien – Leinster Rugby, Ireland, Lions Peter O’Mahony – Munster Rugby, Ireland Ken Owens – Scarlets, Wales Kyle Sinckler – Harlequins, England CJ Stander – Munster Rugby, Ireland Justin Tipuric – Ospreys, Wales, Mako Vunipola – Saracens, England, Billy Vunipola – Saracens, England Sam Warburton (Captain) – Cardiff Blues, Wales

TOUR ITINERARY:

The Lions will play 10 matches on their tour:

– 3 tests against the All Blacks

– 1 match against NZ Maori

– 1 match against each of the five NZ Super Rugby teams

– 1 tour opener against the NZ Provincial Barbarians


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