Gatland pulls no punches in bid to build winning team


Warburton's appointment as Lions captain was the worst-kept secret - and was confirmed several hours before the official announcement when a leaked photo on social media.

Lock Jones replaced Warburton as Wales captain for the 2017 Six Nations, when Warburton enjoyed an impressive tournament in the back row.

Ireland's Jared Payne and Wales' Ross Moriarty were the surprise inclusions, and despite the bumper squad, vast experience from across the British Isles will be left waiting for others' misfortune to get a late place on the plane to New Zealand.

Hartley's understudy Jamie George, who spent most of the Six Nations coming on for Hartley around the hour mark, got the nod alongside Ireland captain Rory Best and Ken Owens of Wales.

Only one player has previously led the Lions on successive tours - England's Martin Johnson in 1997 and 2001.

Added to that, two of the three Tests this year will be played at Eden Park, where New Zealand have not lost in the professional era - with the All Blacks reeling off 36 consecutive wins, including a 2011 World Cup final triumph, at their Auckland fortress since 1995.

Hartley was the biggest-name omission from the 41-man party announced by Warren Gatland, paving the way for the Northampton hooker to take the helm against the Pumas when Eddie Jones names his squad on Thursday.

England are the best represented nation, with 16 Red Rose players included, while there are 12 Welshmen, 11 from Ireland and two Scots.

More news: Anna Boden And Ryan Fleck Will Direct Captain Marvel

He said: "There have been some pretty lively debates in terms of finalising the squad so we are very happy with the quality of the squad that we have and very excited about the team we have put together".

But Te'o has flourished to earn eight Test caps for England and become the first ever Worcester player to be selected for the Lions.

Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour will fly the flag for Scotland, with brothers Richie and Jonny Gray among those overlooked by New Zealander Gatland.

First five-eighths: Dan Biggar (Wales), Johnny Sexton (Ireland), Owen Farrell (England).

Former Scotland and Lions hooker Gordon Bulloch felt his countrymen's sparse representation in Warren Gatland's squad was somewhat predictable given the lack of influence among selectors.

"There's competition for places and there will be players fighting for Test spots with no clear No.1, No.2 or No.3 in certain positions".

Back-rowers: Taulupe Faletau, Ross Moriarty, Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony, CJ Stander, Justin Tipuric, Billy Vunipola, Sam Warburton (c).

The New Zealander, who led the Lions to success in Australia four years ago, said there were no illusions about the task ahead as he seeks to emulate the class of 1971 as the only Lions team to win a series against the All Blacks. "That's why we picked a few extra players compared to 2013". When you look at the quality of the opposition, it's going to be hugely challenging.