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British and Irish Lions 2017 squad: Warren Gatland picks 11 Irishmen to tour New Zealand – with Jared Payne among the surprise selections

2013’s Lions tour of Australia was a wild success. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

SAM Warburton will captain a British and Irish Lions squad featuring 11 Irishmen, head coach Warren Gatland has announced.

Gatland, who will hope to guide the team to another series victory after the 2013 triumph in Australia, surprised many with his selection, with prominent English stars such as hooker Dylan Hartley and second row Joe Launchbury excluded from the squad.

In terms of backs, scrum-half Conor Murray, fly-half Jonathan Sexton and centres Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw were all called up to the 37-man squad.

Payne’s selection will arguably raise the most eyebrows as months of intense speculation come to an end.

Props Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong, hooker Rory Best, second row Iain Henderson and back rows CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony make up Gatland’s Irish contingent of forwards.

The Lions will play 10 matches in New Zealand – three tests vs the All Blacks, five fixtures against New Zealand Super Rugby sides and two matches against the New Zealand Barbarians and the New Zealand Maoris.

The opening game of the tour will take place against the New Zealand Barbarians on June 3, with the first test against the All Blacks scheduled for June 24.

Overall, there are 16 English players in the squad, 12 Welsh, 11 Irish and just two Scottish.

Here is the squad in full:

Loosehead props

Joe Marler (England)

Jack McGrath (Ireland)

Mako Vunipola (England)

Hookers

Rory Best (Ireland)

Jamie George (England)

Ken Owens (Wales)

Tighthead props

Dan Cole (England)

Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)

Kyle Sinckler (England)

Second rows

Iain Henderson (Ireland)

Maro Itoje (England)

Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)

George Kruis (England)

Courtney Lawes (England)

Flankers

Sean O’Brien (Ireland)

Peter O’Mahony (Ireland)

CJ Stander (Ireland)

Justin Tipuric (Wales)

Sam Warburton (Wales) CAPTAIN

Ross Moriarty (Wales)

Number eights

Taulupe Faletau (Wales)

Billy Vunipola (England)

Scrum-halves

Conor Murray (Ireland)

Ben Youngs (England)

Rhys Webb (Wales)

Out-halves

Dan Biggar (Wales)

Johnny Sexton (Ireland)

Centres

Elliot Daly (England)

Jonathan Davies (Wales)

Owen Farrell (England)

Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)

Ben Te’o (England)

Jonathan Joseph (England)

Jared Payne (Ireland)

Wings

George North (Wales)

Anthony Watson (England)

Jack Nowell (England)

Tommy Seymour (Scotland)

Liam Williams (Wales)

Fullbacks

Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)

Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

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Aidan Lonergan
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Aidan Lonergan is a Digital Reporter with The Irish Post. You can follow him on Twitter @ajlonergan

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