Warburton captains British Lions squad, but Wilkinson misses out

  • Getty Images

Wales flanker Sam Warburton will captain the British Lions on their tour of Australia. Warren Gatland's final squad was mostly as predicted, although England fans will have been disappointed by the omission of the England captain Chris Robshaw and World Cup-winning legend Jonny Wilkinson.

Wilkinson had staked a late claim for inclusion with a superb display for Toulon against Saracens in the Heineken Cup semi-final at Twickenham, but Gatland put his trust in England's current fly-half Owen Farrell. The coach said he had sounded out Wilkinson, but the 33 year-old felt his fitness was not up to facing the rigours of a full Lions tour.

The 24 year-old Warburton has led Wales impressively, and it was no surprise that he was given the Lions job. "Warren gave me a call a week ago on Sunday," Warburton said. "It's the hardest secret I've ever had to keep. It's been eating me apart not to tell anyone. It's an accolade very few people achieve and it's an unbelievable honour."

Gatland knows Warburton well enough to be confident in his choice. "For the past four or five years he's been the most successful captain in the northern hemisphere," the coach said. "He's an absolute pro who leads from the front."

There were some surprises in the 37-strong party, not least the exclusion of Robshaw. The England prop Mako Vunipola and the 2005 Lions player Matt Stevens did make the squad. Many were shocked at the selection of Stevens, who missed the 2009 Lions tour because of a drugs ban and retired from the England squad after the 2011 World Cup.

Gatland admitted the selection process had been difficult. "There are some real quality players who have missed out," he admitted. "There was a robust debate about the squad and there were healthy discussions for every position. We had a thorough process and it's been tough."

For the likes of Robshaw, all hope is not lost. Lions tours tend to be attritional, and there is likely to be a need for back-up players ready to fly out and augment the squad if key players are injured.

United Kingdom - Excite Network Copyright ©1995 - 2020