Lions tour coach Ian McGeechan (left) and tour manager Gerald Davies (right) with Lions captain Paul O'Connell during the Lions squad announcement at the Sofitel Hotel, Heathrow Airport, London.
Photo by: PA Wire/PA Photos
Paul O’Connell will lead a British & Irish Lions squad containing 13 of his fellow Irishman on this summer’s Tour of South Africa.
The appointment of O’Connell as captain was widely expected, with his skipper at international level, Brian O’Driscoll, another certainty for inclusion, considered his only genuine rival for the role.
The presence of so many Irishmen was also anticipated following their Grand Slam success in this year’s RBS 6 Nations. However, there were shocks, with the inclusion of Munster duo Alan Quinlan and Keith Earls coming as something of a surprise.
There had been murmurings that the 21-year-old Earls, capped just twice by Ireland, might earn inclusion on account of his versatility and his recent good form at provincial level, but the selection of veteran flanker Quinlan was a massive shock.
Quinlan had, like Earls, been overlooked by Ireland during the Championship and he had not been thought to have been on Lions boss Ian McGeechan's radar. However, his class at Heineken Cup level is beyond question
There were, of course, a number of notable absentees from the 37-strong touring party, with Wales captain Ryan Jones and Scotland skipper Mike Blair both missing out.
Both, it seems, have paid the price for their stuttering form of late, with both failing to shine in this year’s Championship.
Jones, who can play at number eight or at blindside flanker, has effectively lost out to Quinlan, while Blair, it would appear, was pipped to the third scrum-half berth by England’s Harry Ellis.
Meanwhile, the in-form Delon Armitage, who played magnificently for England during the Championship, can consider himself desperately unfortunate to have missed out, with the selectors opting for just two full-backs: Welshman Lee Byrne and Ireland’s Rob Kearney.
Armitage's team-mate, Ugo Monye, though, has been rewarded for his recent good form, having been named as one of the five chosen wingers for the tour alongside another 'bolter' in the form of Leigh Halfpenny, as well as Shane Williams, Tommy Bowe and Luke Fitzgerald.
Joe Worsley, meanwhile, is another man who made a successful late charge for inclusion, the England and Wasps flanker one of three opensides in the panel, along with squad certainties David Wallace and Martyn Williams.
Elsewhere in the back row, Jamie Heaslip and Andy Powell have been left to battle it out for the right to wear the number eight jersey against The Springboks.
Meanwhile, captain O’Connell will have either Alun-Wyn Jones, Donncha O’Callaghan, Simon Shaw or Nathan Hines for company in the Lions second row, while Jerry Flannery, Lee Mears and Matthew Rees will contest the hooking berth.
The Lions management have gone for five props, with Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Phil Vickery, Euan Murray and Andrew Sheridan the men to make the cut.
2009 British & Irish Lions Squad:
Full-Backs: Lee Byrne (Wales), Rob Kearney (Ireland)
Wings: Shane Williams (Wales), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Ugo Monye (England), Luke Fitzgerald (Ireland), Tommy Bowe (Ireland)
Centre: Tom Shanklin (Wales), Jamie Roberts (Wales) , Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), Keith Earls (Ireland), Riki Flutey (England)
Fly-Half: Ronan O’Gara (Ireland) , Stephen Jones (Wales)
Scrum-Half: Mike Phillips (Wales), Harry Ellis (England), Tomas O’Leary (Ireland)
Number 8: Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), Andy Powell (Wales)
Flanker: David Wallace (Ireland), Stephen Ferris (ireland) , Alan Quinlan (Ireland), Joe Worsley (England), Martyn Williams (Wales)
Lock: Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales) , Paul O’Connell (Ireland), Donncha O’Callaghan (Ireland), Simon Shaw, Nathan Hines
Prop: Gethin Jenkins (Wlaes), Adam Jones (Wales), Andrew Sheridan (England), Phil Vickery (England), Euan Murray (Scotland)
Hooker: Jerry Flannery (Ireland), Lee Mears (England), Matthew Rees (Wales)