British Lions squad: Who did Warren Gatland name captain for tour of New Zealand?

The Kiwi named his 41-man squad for the six-week tour on Thursday

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The Independent Online

After months of speculation, Warren Gatland finally named his British and Irish Lions touring party for their gruelling six-month mission of New Zealand.

There were bags of surprises, with Grand Slam and Six Nations winners Joe Launchbury, James Haskell and Chris Robshaw all absent, while captain Dylan Hartley was arguably the most notable omission.

Meanwhile, Ben Te’o made the squad, along with Kyle Sinckler and Jamie George – all three not first XV picks for England.

Gatland also named his captain, with Wales flanker Sam Warburton taking the armband for a second consecutive tour.

Warburton was skipper for the successful 2013 tour of Australia, despite missing the third Test with a hamstring injury, with Alun Wyn Jones leading the side for the decider in Sydney.

Jones was thought to be the leading contender, along with Hartley and Ireland’s Rory Best – but Warburton’s form from blindside during the Six Nations was enough to persuade Gatland to stick with his tried and trusted skipper.

Warburton lost the Wales captaincy to Jones since Gatland has become Lions coach, with Rob Howley – Gatland’s assistant again on the tour – making the decision for the 28-year-old to focus on his own form.

In being named captain, Warburton becomes only the second man to do it, after Martin Johnson also led the side on back-to-back tours in South Africa in 1997 and Australia in 2001.