2013 Lions: Gatland picks 15 Welshmen for Australia tour
Wales’ Sam Warburton will lead the British and Irish Lions on their 2013 tour to Australia.
He is among 15 Wales players picked by Lions head coach Warren Gatland.
Warburton is joined by backs Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts and Mike Phillips.
The forwards are Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard, Ian Evans, Alun Wyn Jones, Toby Faletau, Dan Lydiate and Justin Tipuric.
Warburton is the first Welshman to be named tour captain since fly-half legend Phil Bennett, who led the 1977 party to New Zealand.
Former Wales captain Gareth Thomas also led the Lions in New Zealand in 2005, but as a replacement for Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll, who left the tour injured in that year’s first Test.
Cardiff Blue Warburton becomes the youngest Lions captain since 1955 at the age of 24.
Toulon prop Jenkins will make his third Lions tour, having been in Sir Clive Woodward’s party in New Zealand in 2005 – a tour that ended in a humiliating 3-0 whitewash.
Jenkins was joined by Ospreys Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Blues Roberts and Halfpenny and Bayonne’s Phillips in South Africa in 2009 when the tourists restored the Lions’ reputation in a 2-1 series loss.
Blues wing Cuthbert, Scarlets wing North and team-mate Davies will join Ospreys Hibbard, Evans and Tipuric, plus Newport Gwent Dragons Faletau and Lydiate in making a first Lions tour.
Of the leading Wales players who helped secure a second successive Six Nations title, culminating in 2013 in a 30-3 win over England, Ospreys Ryan Jones and Dan Biggar miss out with the latter the only one absent from the side that started the final game at the Millennium Stadium.
Utility back-five forward Ryan Jones reacted to his Lions omission by tweeting: “Oh well!!”
There is also no place for Bath prop Paul James as Saracens’ Matt Stevens comes in as the utility prop despite having retired from England Test duty.
With Gatland and his fellow selectors having chosen two specialist fly-halves in Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton and England’s Owen Farrell, Biggar joins England’s 2003 World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson in missing out.
Lydiate’s inclusion comes after recovering from a broken ankle that ruled him out of the Six Nations.
In his absence Tipuric secured his place on the Wales open-side, forcing interim Wales coach Rob Howley to move Warburton to blind-side.
That selection was among the issues that prompted a pre-announcement debate over Warburton’s Lions credentials.
Lions squad for 2013 tour
Backs: Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Rob Kearney (Ireland), Tommy Bowe (Ireland), Alex Cuthbert (Wales), Sean Maitland (Scotland), George North (Wales), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), Jamie Roberts (Wales), Manu Tuilagi (England), Owen Farrell (England), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Conor Murray (Ireland), Mike Phillips (Wales), Ben Youngs (England).
Forwards: Dan Cole (England), Cian Healy (Ireland), Gethin Jenkins (Wales), Adam Jones (Wales), Matt Stevens (England), Mako Vunipola (England), Dylan Hartley (England), Richard Hibbard (Wales), Tom Youngs (England), Ian Evans (Wales), Richie Gray (Scotland), Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales), Paul O’Connell (Ireland), Geoff Parling (England), Tom Croft (England), Toby Faletau (Wales), Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), Dan Lydiate (Wales), Sean O’Brien (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Sam Warburton (Wales).