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The British and Irish Lions squad for their 2021 tour of South Africa has been announced, with Warren Gatland picking 37 players to pull on the famed red jersey.
Props: Zander Fagerson (SCO), Tadhg Furlong (IRE), Wyn Jones (WAL),
Andrew Porter (IRE), Kyle Sinckler (ENG), Rory Sutherland (SCO), Mako Vunipola (ENG)
Hookers: Luke Cowan-Dickie (ENG), Jamie George (ENG), Ken Owens (WAL)
Second-rowers: Tadhg Beirne (IRE), Iain Henderson (IRE), Jonny Hill (ENG), Maro Itoje (ENG), Alun Wyn Jones (c) (WAL), Courtney Lawes (ENG)
Loose forwards: Jack Conan (IRE), Tom Curry (ENG), Taulupe Faletau (WAL), Josh Navidi (WAL), Sam Simmonds (ENG),
Justin Tipuric (WAL), Hamish Watson (SCO)
Scrumhalves: Gareth Davies (WAL), Conor Murray (IRE), Ali Price (SCO)
Flyhalves: Dan Biggar (WAL), Owen Farrell (ENG), Finn Russell (SCO)
Centres: Bundee Aki (IRE), Chris Harris (SCO), Robbie Henshaw (IRE)
Outside backs: Josh Adams (WAL), Elliot Daly (ENG), Stuart Hogg (SCO), Louis Rees-Zammit (WAL), Duhan van der Merwe (SCO), Anthony Watson (ENG), Liam Williams (WAL)
Head coach: Warren Gatland
Assistant coaches: Gregor Townsend (attack), Steve Tandy (defence), Robin McBryde (forwards), Neil Jenkins (kicking)
Alun Wyn Jones had been ruled out of the series after injuring his shoulder in a warmup match but, incredibly, recovered in time.
There are nine other Welshmen in the touring party, with the make-up of the squad featuring a remarkable split across the Home Nations.
England lead the way with twelve representatives, while Scotland has eight and Ireland seven players selected. It’s a vast improvement for the Scots on 2017, when they had only two selections in the squad, and comes on the back of a strong Six Nations.
However it’s the smallest Irish contingent in a Lions squad since 2001, even though Bundee Aki was a surprise inclusion from the Emerald Isle. National captain Johnny Sexton, who was a key member of the 2017 team, missed out on selection at flyhalf, as did centre Garry Ringrose and star lock James Ryan.
Alongside Aki, Englishman Sam Simmonds was the main bolter in the squad, picked despite not having played a Test match since 2018. Courtney Lawes was also a bit of a surprising selection given his lack of recent gametime, while fellow Englishman Elliot Daly was also considered lucky given his iffy form in 2021.
Alongside Ryan and Ringrose, some of the big-name omissions include Sam Underhill, Jonathan Davies and Jonny May. Kyle Sinckler was initially amongst the overlooked group, but a toe injury to Irishman Andrew Porter paved the way for the English prop to earn a late call-up to the squad. Josh Navidi was also a contentious omission, but he replaced the injured Justin Tipuric.
As for the coaches, assisting Warren Gatland will be Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, his defensive assistant Steve Tandy, Leinster’s Robin McBryde, and Wales skills coach Neil Jenkins.
Townsend will be Gatland’s attack coach, with Tandy in charge of defence, McBryde the forwards and Jenkins looking after the side’s kicking.