British & Irish Lions

Wales great Alun Wyn Jones named captain as British & Irish Lions name squad for SA tour

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 Alun Wyn Jones (Getty)
Alun Wyn Jones (Getty)

Veteran Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones will lead the 2021 British and Irish Lions in South Africa but there is no place for several big names including Johnny Sexton and Billy Vunipola in the 37-man squad announced on Thursday.

The 35-year-old Jones, long a leading contender for the captaincy role, led Wales to this season's Six Nations title.

The second-row forward has won a world record 157 Test caps and this will be his fourth Lions tour. He has played in the combined side's last nine internationals in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

He also led the Lions to victory in the decisive 2013 Test against Australia when tour captain Sam Warburton was injured.

Jones saw off competition for the role from the likes of England's Maro Itoje and Scotland's Stuart Hogg to be chosen as captain by Lions head coach Warren Gatland for a July-August tour that culminates with three Tests against the world champion Springboks, who have not played an international since winning the World Cup two years ago.

Jones, speaking on lionsrugby.com, said: "Obviously very proud, very privileged. To be selected in the squad is initially what you want to be hearing, and to have the armband as well is a privilege, with the names that have gone before and what those players have achieved."

Asked how he had found out he had been selected as captain by Gatland, a former Wales coach, Jones said: "I had a call from Gats on Sunday evening, actually a missed call. Thought better give him a call back.

"We had a quick chat and I accepted obviously. I've just got a huge amount of pride to add this to the CV, but obviously there's a lot of work to do once we get out there."

Gatland added: "I did panic for a few hours before he rang me back. It was a great conversation.

"It's a great honour to be tour captain but you've got to play well as well."

Jones' appointment is the latest honour in a career that has seen him win five Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and play in two World Cup semi-finals.

The now retired Warburton, a former Wales as well as Lions team-mate of Jones, said the new captain was "an obvious choice".

"His rugby CV is complete now, he's completed rugby," Warburton added.

No Sexton

Meanwhile, Ireland captain Sexton was one of several high-profile omissions from a 37-man squad, together with Billy Vunipola, Josh Navidi and Jonathan Davies.

Experienced flyhalf Sexton, who turns 36 on 11 July, has suffered concussion problems since the Six Nations and his omission leaves England's Owen Farrell, Wales' Dan Biggar and Scotland's Finn Russell to scrap over the No 10 shirt.

Reigning European player of the year Sam Simmonds was named among the back-row forwards despite having not played a Test for England since 2018.

But there was no place for fellow England No 8 Vunipola, a Red Rose regular under Eddie Jones, after a dip in form this season. 

Flanker Hamish Watson, who was named Player of the Championship after the recent Six Nations, is one of eight Scotsmen in the squad which also features eight from Ireland, 10 from Wales and 11 from England. 

In midfield, Gatland left out England's Manu Tuilagi, who has only just returned to training after a long spell out injured, but included Scotland's Chris Harris and Ireland's Bundee Aki.

"To those players that have been selected, congratulations," said Gatland. 

"I know it's going to be challenging for a number of aspects," Gatland added of a tour that will likely be played without the now customary large contingent of travelling Lions' fans because of Covid-19 restrictions.

As for the prospect of facing the Springboks, who beat the Lions in 2009, Gatland said: "It's not going to be easy.

"Back in 2009 we played pretty well in the lead-up but the physicality they brought to the first Test was something we weren't quite ready for."

The tour is scheduled between 3 July and 7 August.

ROB HOUWING MUST READ | Aiming at heart of beast: Lions stretch 'lock leader' tradition in SA

British & Irish Lions squad:

Backs (16)

Josh Adams (WAL), Bundee Aki (IRL), Dan Biggar (WAL), Elliot Daly (ENG), Gareth Davies (WAL), Owen Farrell (ENG), Chris Harris (SCO), Robbie Henshaw (IRL), Stuart Hogg (SCO), Conor Murray (IRL), Ali Price (SCO), Louis Rees-Zammit (WAL), Finn Russell (SCO), Duhan van der Merwe (SCO), Anthony Watson (ENG), Liam Williams (WAL)

Forwards (21)

Tadhg Beirne (IRL), Jack Conan (IRL), Luke Cowan-Dickie (ENG), Tom Curry (ENG), Zander Fagerson (SCO), Taulupe Faletau (WAL), Tadhg Furlong (IRL), Jamie George (ENG), Iain Henderson (IRL), Jonny Hill (ENG), Maro Itoje (ENG), Alun Wyn Jones (WAL, capt), Wyn Jones (WAL), Courtney Lawes (ENG), Ken Owens (WAL), Andrew Porter (IRL), Sam Simmonds (ENG), Rory Sutherland (SCO), Justin Tipuric (WAL), Mako Vunipola (ENG), Hamish Watson (SCO)

Fixtures:

Jun 26: v Japan, Murrayfield (warm-up match)

Jul 3: v Stormers, Cape Town

Jul 7: v SA Invitation XV, Gqeberha

Jul 10: v Sharks, Durban

Jul 14: v South Africa 'A', Mbombela

Jul 17: v Bulls, Pretoria

Jul 24: SOUTH AFRICA v BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS, 1st TEST, Johannesburg

Jul 31: SOUTH AFRICA v BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS, 2ND TEST, Cape Town

Aug 7: SOUTH AFRICA v BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS, 3RD TEST, Johannesburg

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