O'Connell confirmed as Lions skipper

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The Independent Online

Paul O'Connell has been confirmed as 2009 Lions captain while Wales skipper Ryan Jones has missed out altogether.

Head coach Ian McGeechan's biggest surprise selection is that of England wing Ugo Monye while England and Scotland captains Steve Borthwick and Mike Blair have also missed the cut in a 37-man squad.

Other surprise picks include Ireland's Keith Earls and Alan Quinlan and Wales' Leigh Halfpenny.

There are 13 Welshman in McGeechan's squad alongside 14 Irishmen, eight Englishmen and just two Scots.

McGeechan has gone for power in is forward selection with Andy Powell's bruising running game earning him a place despite not starting for the Cardiff Blues in recent weeks.

Powell is picked alongside Jamie Heaslip in the No.8 position while the Munster duo of Quinlan and David Wallace will do battle with Ireland and Ulster's Stephen Ferris, Wales' Martyn Williams and England's Joe Worsley for the back row slots in the Test side.

England flanker Tom Croft had been hotly tipped to travel to South Africa but has missed out in favour of more physical players, while Wales skipper Ryan Jones will be bitterly disappointed to have missed the tour.

Jones, who was a sensation after being drafted in as a late replacement on the 2005 tour of New Zealand, began this season as a contender for the captaincy but has suffered a dip in form in the second half of the campaign.

McGeechan said, "To get where we are today and the announcement of the 37 players who will travel to South Africa has taken a lot of thought and work.



"Over the last six months the Lions coaching staff has attended countless matches, analysed endless games and taken the counsel of national and domestic coaches. Today marks the end of a comprehensive and detailed selection process.



"Naturally there were some tough decisions and there will be disappointed players but I am confident that this is a very strong and capable squad. Its composition reflects the form shown in the 6 Nations and domestic rugby and has a balanced blend of experience and youth.



"Paul O'Connell has shown over his career that he is a natural leader both on and off the field. He leads from the front on the field and as a quality international has the respect of his fellow players all over the world.



"As a member of the 2005 tour to New Zealand he played in five matches including three Tests so knows all about the ethos and challenges of Lions tours. I look forward to working with him and the entire squad over the coming months as we strive to develop a side that can add a successful chapter in the long history of the Lions."



O'Connell played in all three Tests on the disastrous 2005 tour and came in for criticism for his performances, but has since won two Heineken Cups with Munster and was a totemic presence for Ireland in their Grand Slam success in this year's Six Nations.



"To be selected for a second Lions tour is fantastic and to be asked to captain the squad is a tremendous honour.," said the 62-cap Irishman. "It is not only a great honour for me but an honour for Munster and Ireland.



"The tour to South Africa represents a huge challenge for the touring party as we will be playing against the world champions. However, I am confident we have the talent and attitude to represent the famous shirt to the best of our ability and to be successful."



2009 British & Irish Lions squad



Fullback

Lee Byrne (Wales)

Rob Kearney (Ireland)



Wing

Shane Williams (Wales)

Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)

Ugo Moyne (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)



No 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 (England)

Nathan Hines (Scotland)



Prop

Gethin Jenkins (Wales)

Adam Jones (Wales)

Andrew Sheridan (England)

Phil Vickery (England)

Euan Murray (Scotland)



Hooker

Jerry Flannery (Ireland)

Lee Mears (England)

Matthew Rees (Wales)

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