In the space of two days this week we have witnessed the best and worst kept secrets of 2017 thus far.
On Tuesday Teresa May announced a general election, to everyone’s surprise, whilst on Wednesday morning Sam Warburton was officially revealed as captain of the 2017 British & Irish lions, hours after the head of world rugby had congratulated him, on Twitter on, his appointment, and various photos were posted showing Sam with the Lions management at the Syon Park hotel in his full Lions kit.
Despite this major leak, there was still a huge sense of anticipation on a sunny spring morning at the Syon Park Hilton in south-west London, as Warren Gatland unveiled the 41 man squad for the 2017 British & Irish Lions Tour to New Zealand.
A huge media presence gathered to watch the announcement made by tour manager John Spencer, who revealed one by one the names of the 16 English, 12 Welsh, 11 Irish and two Scots that will carry the hopes and dreams of thousands of fans in the land of the long white cloud this summer.
The squad consists of 22 forwards and 19 backs, with Maro Itoje the youngest player at the age of 22.
On his choice of Warburton as captain Gatland had this to say:
“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.
The modest and delightful young man had this to say ”
“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.”
Sam is such a humble character he may not realise he is actually a Lions legend himself.
Having spoken to Warren, Graham Rowntree and Rob Howley it is evident that the selection of the tour party was a difficult and demanding process and they all felt the weight of responsibility on their shoulders, people may disagree with some of their choices, but it would be very difficult to question the integrity of the process.
So there we have it, after months of speculation the Lions are raring, or should that be roaring to go.
The Tour Party
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