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Eleven Irish Players Named In Lions Squad

20 April 2017

Ireland skipper Rory Best has reportedly beaten England captain Dylan Hartley to a place in Warren Gatland's British and Irish Lions squad, with several other big names anxiously awaiting Wednesday's announcement.

Warburton - the 2013 skipper for the tour of Australia - will be the second player to captain the Lions twice, after Martin Johnson (1997, 2001).

The last time the Lions tour New Zealand was in 2005 when Clive Woodward's side lost all three Tests against the All Blacks.

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen (L) talks with Wales captain Sam Warburton (R) after the rugby Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Wales in Wellington on June 18, 2016.

"He's got some weaknesses but when I look at it from a Welsh perspective, he's the one player who causes us so many problems when we play England because of his footwork and pace".

"He will understand that and respect that because it is not about Sam Warburton, it is about the team and that is what I like about him as a person and an individual". He has taken his opportunities brilliantly with England, played really well and shown his versatility; playing on the wing for England while playing 13 week in week out for us and he's also played 15 in the past.

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"Dylan has done a great job for England since he has captained the team".

While Hansen's predecessor Graham Henry has labelled the itinerary "suicidal", Hansen said any tour of New Zealand was always going to be a challenge. "They're arguably the form players of the Six Nations".

Wasps have said they are "gobsmacked" after lock Joe Launchbury was a surprise omission from the British and Lions squad for this summer's tour of New Zealand.

Warburton felt the captaincy would go to one of the current worldwide skippers in the squad, but believes he is better prepared for the job now then four years ago when he led the Lions to victory over Australia.

"I don't think we should get on the plane unless we think we've got a chance of beating the All Blacks", he said.

"Every player from 1-23 has to contribute massively in every test match to be able to get the win". Anybody who says they haven't been thinking about it up until this point is lying because it has been on your mind and if you've been anywhere near the Irish team, you know you're in with a shout.

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His impressive performances during the recent Six Nations tournament, in which he played all five of England's Tests under Australian-born coach Eddie Jones, have earned him a place in Warren Gatland's 41-man squad against the land of his birth.

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

Coming off the back of a never-ending domestic season, they will have suffered further injuries and numerous coaching teams' best-laid plans will have been torn up.

And Lions assistant coach Rob Howley believes their qualities are "quite comparable" following Wales flanker Warburton's appointment to lead a second successive Lions tour.

Hansen said he expects the Lions to play an uncomplicated style typical of what Gatland uses with the Wales team.

"This is the toughest tour".

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