Warburton to lead British & Irish Lions once again as Warren Gatland unveils 2017 squad

After months of speculation, the British and Irish Lions touring party for their tour to New Zealand this Summer has finally been unveiled by Warren Gatland and his fellow coaches. 

Sam Warburton will skipper the squad once more, becoming only the second man after Martin Johnson to lead the Lions on two tours, while there is room for just two Scots in the form of Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg

England captain Dylan Hartley is among the big names to miss out on selection to the 41-man squad with his English teammate Joe Launchbury also being overlooked.

16 Englishmen included in 41-man squad

England provide the highest number of players to the squad, with 16 of their back-to-back Six Nations winning team to be involved.

Nine of those Englishmen are involved in the forward pack, including 24-year-old prop Kyle Sinckler who has represented his nation at every level and the lock trio of Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes and George Kruis

Harlequins' Kyle Sinckler poses with his Lions jersey (image source: Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

Out in the backs, Jonathan Joseph is selected despite reports which indicated otherwise, while Ben Te'o will also be involved having done enough to influence the coaches during his fleeting Six Nations performances. 

Gatland happy with "depth" and "quality" of squad ahead of "hugely challenging" tour

The Kiwi head coach admitted that there were some "pretty lively debates" when the coaches were finalising their squad for the tour which begins on June 3rd. 

"There is no clear number one, two or three in some positions," said a purring Gatland. "That is what makes us excited about the quality of the squad."

The ten-match tour will see the Lions tourists face all five of the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises, as well as matches against the NZ Maori and New Zealand Barbarians, with Gatland claiming "This will be the toughest tour."

The coaching staff take their seats at the squad announcement (image source: Warren Little/Getty Images)

"If you look at the quality of the teams we are playing midweek, it is going to be hugely challenging. That is why we have picked a few extra players, to make sure we have got depth and quality."

12 Welshmen will be aboard the plane which leaves for New Zealand including Ross Moriarty who put in an epic performance against England during the Six Nations, while nine of the 11 Irish players selected were part of their nation's stunning 40-29 win over the All Blacks last November which has set the benchmark for this tour. 

Winger Tommy Seymour and full-back Stuart Hogg are Scotland's only two representatives, with the likes of Hamish Watson, Jonny Gray and Finn Russell likely to have seen their chances of selection ended following the 61-21 defeat at Twickenham five weeks ago. 

Squad in full

Forwards: Rory Best (Ireland), Dan Cole (England), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Jamie George (England), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Maro Itoje (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), George Kruis (England), Courtney Lawes (England), Joe Marler (England), Jack McGrath (Ireland), Ross Moriarty (Wales), Sean O'Brien (Ireland), Peter O'Mahony (Ireland), Ken Owens (Wales), Kyle Sinckler (England), CJ Stander (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Billy Vunipola (England), Mako Vunipola (England), Sam Warburton (Wales).

Backs: Dan Biggar (Wales), Elliot Daly (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Owen Farrell (England), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Jonathan Joseph (England), Conor Murray (Ireland), George North (Wales), Jack Nowell (England), Jared Payne (Ireland), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Tommy Seymour (Scotland), Ben Te'o (England), Anthony Watson (England), Rhys Webb (Wales), Liam Williams (Wales), Ben Youngs (England).