Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones was named skipper of the British and Irish Lions side which is set to tour South Africa later this year as head coach Warren Gatland announced his 37-man squad on Thursday.
Wyn Jones, who will be making his fourth tour, beat three other contenders for the role: Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell and Stuart Hogg. He will lead a side made up of 10 players from his native Wales, 11 from England, eight from Scotland and eight from Ireland.
There were several notable omissions from the squad by Gatland including Ireland fly-half Jonny Sexton, England number eight Billy Vunipola, England prop Kyle Sinckler and Wales centre Jonathan Davies.
Other big names to miss out are English trio Jonny May (wing), Henry Slade (centre) and Manu Tuilagi (centre) and Ireland’s Cian Healy (prop) and James Ryan (lock).
Some of the surprise picks are Irish centre Bundee Aki and English duo Jonny Hill (lock) and forward Courtney Lawes, the latter who has been out injured since February.
The Lions had been expected to select a 36-man squad, but one additional player was drafted in following a four-hour selection meeting on Wednesday.
Gatland said he was happy with his squad admitting that competition for places had been “tough” and there were “some incredibly tight calls to make”.
“We believe we’ve picked a squad capable of winning a Test series in South Africa,” Gatland said.
“Selecting a Lions squad is never easy, and, in many ways, this has been the most challenging selection I have been involved in. Over the course of the last three weeks the coaches and I have rigorously debated each position.”
“We’ve left out some very talented players which gives an indication to the strength of this squad and we know how important that stand-by list will be. Being selected for a Lions Tour is the greatest honour for a British and Irish player and I congratulate everyone named today.”
Gatland will be hoping to mastermind the Lions’ first Test series win against the Springboks since 1997.
The Lions’ schedule begins with a game against Japan at Murrayfield on June 26. They will then travel to South Africa where they will first play the DHL Stormers on July 3 and then face a South Africa Invitation XV, the Sharks, South Africa A and the Bulls before playing the World champions on July 24 in Johannesburg.
Then the Lions will travel to Cape Town for the second Test, before finishing up in Johannesburg for the final Test against South Africa on August 7.
(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)