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Thursday 20th
posted by Morning Star in Sport

Biggest omission from squad is England captain Hartley

Reappointed British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton revealed yesterday that he was waiting for his wife to finish her shopping when he received the call from head coach Warren Gatland.

The 28-year-old Cardiff flanker will lead the Lions in New Zealand this summer and becomes the second player to be named skipper for two Lions tours, following England World Cup winner Martin Johnson.

His appointment was confirmed by tour manager John Spencer at yesterday’s Lions squad announcement in west London, and comes four years after Warburton captained the Lions in Australia.

“I found out last Thursday,” Warburton said. “I was in a supermarket car park back home. My wife was just in the shop getting some bread and milk.

“I didn’t want to go in because there is a cashier there who always wants to talk about rugby.

“I actually hung up on Gats [Gatland] first of all when I got the call. I thought it was one of the boys messing with me. They had been messing with me for days.

“But then I spoke to Gats and he asked me.”

Warburton opted to give up the Wales captaincy ahead of this year’s Six Nations to concentrate on improving his form but he said there was no hesitation in accepting the role for the Lions.

“I said yes straight away, it was an easy decision,” Warburton said.

“I have to feel I deserve my place in the Lions team. If I thought I was only scraping to get in the squad and they had asked me to be captain I would have said I don’t think I’m the right person.

“But now I do feel I’m playing well and feel very confident about my game so that’s why I said yes.”

England captain Dylan Hartley was omitted from the squad and is the third successive England captain to miss out, following in the footsteps of Chris Robshaw and Steve Borthwick.

But the Six Nations champions still supply the largest contingent, numbering 16 players.

Gatland has selected a 41-man squad for the 10 fixtures culminating in a three-Test series against New Zealand, including surprise call-ups for Ireland full-back Jared Payne, England wing Jack Nowell and Wales back row Ross Moriarty.

Hartley lost out to England teammate Jamie George, who has been selected despite acting as understudy at hooker for his international captain Rory Best and Ken Owens.

Despite reports earlier this week of his inclusion, there was no place for two-time tourist Jamie Roberts but Jonathan Joseph has made the cut as one of the centres.

There are two Scots present in wing Tommy Seymour and full-back Stuart Hogg, with the remainder of the squad made up of 12 Welshmen and 11 players from Ireland.