Lions squad: Alun Wyn Jones named captain as Warren Gatland reveals 37 players for tour of South Africa

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton misses out at fly-half while England’s Kyle Sinckler is a surprise omission at tighthead prop

<p>Alun Wyn Jones was the standout candidate for captaincy</p>

Alun Wyn Jones was the standout candidate for captaincy

Alun Wyn Jones will captain the British and Irish Lions on their summer tour of South Africa, head coach Warren Gatland has revealed, as Ireland captain Johnny Sexton and England forward Kyle Sinckler were notable absentees from the 37-man squad.

Jones led Wales to Six Nations victory in the spring, falling agonisingly short of the grand slam in Paris on the final day of the championship, and the 35-year-old was the standout candidate to lead Gatland’s squad into battle against the world champions.

Sam Simmonds, the Exeter number eight and current European player of the year, has been picked despite being consistently overlooked by England since winning the last of his seven caps in 2018. He is joined by fellow bolters and centres Bundee Aki of Ireland and Scotland’s Chris Harris, with Manu Tuilagi left out as he approaches his comeback from an Achilles injury.

Sexton lost out to fly-half picks Dan Biggar and Finn Russell, while Zander Fagerson and Andrew Porter were preferred to Sinckler at tighthead prop. Other notable omissions included Jonathan Davies, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola and Josh Navidi.

Sexton finished the Six Nations strongly but has suffered ongoing concussion problems since. Davies was expected to travel to South Africa, especially after Wales team-mate George North was ruled out by a knee injury, but in a surprise move Ireland’s Aki and Scotland’s Harris were both preferred.

Follow the Lions squad announcement reaction LIVE

Another of Wayne Pivac's Six Nations champions in Navidi has failed to win a place in the ferociously competitive back-row positions, but Jack Conan of Ireland is present. Underhill missed the Six Nations because of a hip injury but his stopping power in defence was thought to be enough to secure his spot, while Vunipola has paid the price for his poor form.

Jones, who is the game's most capped player with 157 Test appearances, including 148 for Wales, is preparing for his fourth tour with the Lions after playing key roles in 2009, 2013 and 2017, having featured in each of the last nine Lions Test matches.

It headlines a stellar playing career that has seen him win five Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and play in two World Cup semi-finals. Jones led the Lions to a Test series-clinching victory over Australia in Sydney eight years ago when fellow Welshman Sam Warburton was injured.

And he will now be in charge from the start of the tour in July and August that is highlighted by three Tests against the world champion Springboks.

Speaking on lionsrugby.com, Jones said: “Obviously very proud, very privileged. To be selected in the squad is initially what you want to be hearing, and to have the armband as well is a privilege, with the names that have gone before and what those players have achieved.”

Asked how he had found out, Jones said: “I had a call from Gats on Sunday evening, actually a missed call. Thought better give him a call back. We had a quick chat and I accepted obviously. I’ve just got a huge amount of pride to add this to the CV, but obviously there’s a lot of work to do once we get out there.”

Gatland was set to pick a 36-man squad but revealed he added an extra loose forward at the last moment after discussions with his staff.

“Looking particularly at our loose forwards, getting that extra player there as a bit of a back-up, a 37-man squad was something that we looked at yesterday,” Gatland said. “There are a lot of factors to take into consideration. You are looking at form in the Six Nations, some younger players that you feel you can develop on the tour and players who have done it for you before.”

The squad will have a preparation match against Japan in Edinburgh on 26 June before flying to South Africa for the first of five warm-up matches, against SHL Stormers in Cape Town. The first Test match against the Springboks will take place on 24 July in Johannesburg, before the second Test in Cape Town on 31 July and the final match back in Johannesburg on 7 August.

Full Lions squad

Backs: Josh Adams (Wales), Bundee Aki (Ireland), Dan Biggar (Wales), Elliot Daly (England), Gareth Davies (Wales), Owen Farrell (England), Chris Harris (Scotland), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Conor Murray (Ireland) Ali Price (Scotland), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), Finn Russell (Scotland), Duhan Van Der Merwe (Scotland), Anthony Watson (England), Liam Williams (Wales)

Forwards: Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), Jack Conan (Ireland) Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), Tom Curry (England), Zander Fagerson (Scotland) Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland) Jamie George (England), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Jonny Hill (England), Maro Itoje (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Wyn Jones (Wales), Courtney Lawes (England), Ken Owens (Wales), Andrew Porter (Ireland), Sam Simmonds (England), Rory Sutherland (Scotland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Mako Vunipola (England) Hamish Watson (Scotland)

Schedule

26 June: Japan (Edinburgh)

3 July: DHL Stormers (Cape Town)

7 July: South Africa Invitational XV (Port Elizabeth)

10 July: Cell C Sharks (Durban)

14 July: South Africa A (Mbombela)

17 July: Vodacom Bulls (Pretoria)

24 July: South Africa, 1st Test (Johannesburg - FNB National Stadium)

31 July: South Africa, 2nd Test (Cape Town)

7 August: South Africa, 3rd Test (Johannesburg - Emirates Airline Park)

Additional reporting by PA

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