Warren Gatland names eleven Irish players for the tour to New Zealand
by Fiona O’Brien
British and Irish Lions manager Warren Gatland has announced his squad for this summer’s tour of New Zealand.
Despite picking 11 players from the Ireland team, one notable absence is Leinster prop Cian Healy, who finds out this afternoon if he misses his club’s semi-final clash against Clermont on Sunday.
Other notable omissions are for Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney and Simon Zebo, while Peter O’Mahony’s great run of form for Munster secured his place.
Four Irish backs have been named in Conor Murray, Robbie Henshaw, Jared Payne and Johnny Sexton.
Ireland provide seven forwards for the team in Jack McGrath, Tadgh Furlong, Rory Best, CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony and Iain Henderson.
A total of 16 Englishmen, 12 Welshmen, and two Scots make up Gatland’s touring party for the six-week Tour that will culminate in a three-Test series against the All Blacks.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) April 19, 2017
And of the 41 players named, 16 are returning from the 2013 tour, as Gatland said the mix of youth and experience means that everyone will get their chance to shine.
“Everyone will get the opportunity. Looking at the potential combinations that we have got, we think it is going to be really competitive,” he said.
“The message to the players is that, if you have been selected, then you must go with the confidence that you are good enough to be part of the Test XV.
“Some of them are going to be disappointed that they have missed out but you have got to put your hand up and have that belief, you have to be competitive and fight hard at training and be committed in terms of your contributions in training and meetings.
“There is a huge amount going into that so the message to those players is to come and be part of the squad, but not just to make up the numbers.
“If you are here to just make up numbers then there is no way you are going be part of the Test squad.
“We hope everyone is going out with the attitude that if things go well enough for me I am good enough to start in a Test.”
It was revealed earlier today that Sam Warburton of Wales will become only the second ever player, after Martin Johnson in 1997 and 2001, to captain the Lions twice.
— Wasps Rugby News (@WaspsRugbyNews) April 19, 2017
The news was broken on social media before the official announcement, as pictures emerged of Warburton, Gatland and other members of the management posing for a promotional picture outside the west London hotel where the announcement was made.
At the launch Gatland said: “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.”
Irish World selection
A fortnight ago, our rugby reporter Phil Rice gave his own predictions for Gatland’s team, and was almost on the nose with his selection.
Of the 15 backs he selected, all but Finn Russell made it through. And of the 21 forwards he predicted, 18 were picked by Gatland.
In all Warren Gatland named a 41-man squad, consisting of 22 forwards and 20 backs.
In a double blow for the 29-year-old Dubliner, Healy finds out this afternoon if he misses out on his club side’s Champion’s Cup semi-final against Clermont this Sunday after being cited for an incident over the weekend.
After the game against Connacht, Healy was reported by citing commissioner Eugene Ryan on two counts, Law 10.4(k), dangerous play, and 10.4(h), a player must not charge into a ruck, for an incident in the 23rd minute.
A disciplinary hearing is to be held in Edinburgh on Wednesday at 5pm, and if he is found guilty, a sanction could range from two to 52 weeks, which means that if it goes against him he will definitely miss the tie in Lyon this weekend.
Dan Biggar – Ospreys, Wales
Elliot Daly – Wasps, England
Jonathan Davies – Scarlets, Wales, Lions #778
Owen Farrell – Saracens, England, Lions #780
Leigh Halfpenny – Toulon, Wales, Lions #775
Robbie Henshaw – Leinster Rugby, Ireland
Stuart Hogg – Glasgow Warriors, Scotland, Lions #783
Jonathan Joseph – Bath Rugby, England
Conor Murray – Munster Rugby, Ireland, Lions #790
George North – Northampton Saints, Wales, Lions #792
Jack Nowell – Exeter Chiefs, England
Jared Payne – Ulster Rugby, Ireland
Jonathan Sexton – Leinster Rugby, Ireland, Lions #791
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, Lions #799
Rory Best – Ulster Rugby, Ireland, Lions #793
Dan Cole – Leicester Tigers, England, Lions #794
Taulupe Faletau – Bath Rugby, Wales, Lions #779
Tadhg Furlong – Leinster Rugby, Ireland
Jamie George – Saracens, England
Iain Henderson – Ulster Rugby, Ireland
Maro Itoje – Saracens, England
Alun Wyn Jones – Ospreys, Wales, Lions #761
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 #796
Peter O’Mahony – Munster Rugby, Ireland
Ken Owens – Scarlets, Wales
Kyle Sinckler – Harlequins, England
CJ Stander – Munster Rugby, Ireland
Justin Tipuric – Ospreys, Wales, Lions #786
Mako Vunipola – Saracens, England, Lions #787
Billy Vunipola – Saracens, England
Sam Warburton (Captain) – Cardiff Blues, Wales, Lions #800
It’s 46 years since the Lions won a series in NZ, but this year’s squad is probably the strongest to visit the Land of the Long White Cloud, since 1971.