Veteran Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones will lead the 2021 British and Irish Lions in South Africa, but there was no room for several big names, including Johnny Sexton and Billy Vunipola, in the squad of 37 men announced Thursday.
Jones, 35, long one of the main contenders for the role, has guided Wales to the Six Nations title this season.
Lock won a world record of 157 tryout selections and this will be his fourth Lions tour. He has played in the last nine internationals for the combined team in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
He also led the Lions to victory in the 2013 decisive test against Australia when skipper Sam Warburton was injured.
Jones has ruled out competition from England Maro Itoje and Scotland’s Stuart Hogg to be selected as skipper by head coach Warren Gatland for a July-August tour that ends with three tests against world champion Springboks , who last played an international at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“Getting selected to the squad is what you want to hear initially, and having the armband too is a privilege, with the names that came before and what these players have accomplished,” Jones told lionsrugby.com
When asked how he found out he was chosen as captain by Gatland, a former Wales coach, Jones said: “I got a call from Gats on Sunday night, actually a missed call. . I thought “better to recall it”. “
Gatland added: “I panicked for a few hours before he called me back. It was a great conversation.
“It’s a great honor to be captain of the tour, but you also have to play well. “
Jones’ appointment is the latest honor in a career that has seen him win five Six Nations titles, three Grand Slam tournaments and two World Cup semi-finals.
– No Sexton –
Meanwhile, Irish captain Sexton was one of many high profile omissions, along with James Ryan, Billy Vunipola, Josh Navidi and Jonathan Davies, Jonny May and Kyle Sinckler.
Experienced fly-half Sexton, who turns 36 in July, has suffered from concussion issues since the Six Nations and his exclusion leaves England’s Owen Farrell, Wales Dan Biggar and Scotland’s Finn Russell at the abandonment of jersey n ° 10.
European player of the year Sam Simmonds has been named among the rowers despite the last game for England in 2018.
But there was no room for fellow No.8 Vunipola, a regular starter under Eddie Jones, after a form dive.
Flanker Hamish Watson, who was named league player after the recent Six Nations, is one of eight Scottish players on the squad which also includes eight from Ireland, 10 from Wales and 11 from England.
In midfield, England’s Manu Tuilagi, who has just returned to training after a long period of injury, missed the game, with Scotland’s Chris Harris and Ireland’s Bundee Aki called up.
The tour will likely be played without the usual large contingent of traveling Lions fans due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Nonetheless, a confident Gatland said: “We believe we have picked a team capable of winning a test series in South Africa.
“In many ways this selection was the most difficult I have been on.
“We left out some very talented players, which gives an indication of the strength of this team. “
Turning to world champions Rassie Erasmus, Gatland said: “They are going to be incredibly tough. We know how physical they can be.
“I hope (we can) find the right balance between hard work but also playing good rugby. “
© 2021 AFP