Stander in Lions squad
- 19 Apr 2017
CJ Stander has been included in the 41-man British & Irish Lions squad for their tour of New Zealand in June.
The South African-born loose forward was an odds-on favourite to make the squad, following standout performances for Ireland in the Six Nations and for his club Munster. On Tuesday, coach Warren Gatland confirmed his inclusion.
The 27-year-old is one of six players born outside the four home nations, alongside Toby Faletau, Jared Payne, Ben Te'o and the Vunipola brothers, Billy and Mako.
Sam Warburton will lead the team, making him only the second player in history after Martin Johnson to captain two Lions tours, having also led them in 2013 in Australia.
'Sam is a great player, an outstanding leader and a winning Lions captain. We believe that his experience and leadership qualities make him an obvious choice as captain. He has earned the respect of his peers and coaches through his resilience, tenacity and hard work,' said Gatland of his captaincy selection.
England trio Joe Launchbury (lock), George Ford (flyhalf) and Dylan Harltey (hooker) were the surprise omissions from the squad, with Gatland selecting Courtney Lawes, Dan Biggar and Ken Owens as back-up for those positions. The non-selection of Hartley makes him the third consecutive England captain to miss the cut.
Overall there are 16 England players in the squad, 12 players from Wales, 11 Ireland representatives and two players from Scotland.
'I think there's been healthy debate about the squad. It's an incredible traditional team and we want everyone to be supportive and behind the team,' Gatland said about his selections.
'There's competition for places and there will be players fighting for Test spots with no clear number one, number two or number three in certain positions. That's what makes us pretty excited about the quality of the squad going to New Zealand.
'This is going to be the toughest tour. Previously the midweek games tended to be a little easier, but when you look at the quality of the opposition we're facing in midweek, it's going to be hugely challenging,' he added.
'That's why we've taken a few extra players than we did in 2013. We just needed to make sure we have depth and quality in the squad.'
Lions touring squad:
Back three – Stuart Hogg, Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Liam Wiliams, Tommy Seymour.
Centres – Elliot Daly, Robbie Henshaw, Ben Te'o, Jonathan Joseph, Jared Payne, Jonathan Davies.
Flyhalves – Dan Biggar, Owen Farrell, Jonathan Sexton.
Scrumhalves – Conor Murray, Ben Youngs, Rhys Webb.
No 8s – Billy Vunipola, Toby Faletau.
Flanks – Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahoney, Ross Moriarty, Sam Warburton (c), Justin Tipuric, CJ Stander.
Locks – Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Alun Wyn Jones, Iain Henderson.
Hookers – Rory Best, Ken Owens, Jamie George.
Props – Joe Marler, Mako Vunipola, Jack McGrath, Tadhg Furlong, Kyle Sinckler, Dan Cole.
Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Getty Images
Lions stars boosted Boks
In-form Lions players emphatically vindicated their selections for the Springboks during the June series against France, which bodes well for the business end of Super Rugby, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
White’s broken dreams
Jake White’s stint at Montpellier ended in failure, because he misread the French psyche, writes GAVIN MORTIMER.
Five takeaways from past weekend
What we learned from this past weekend's international matches, according to CRAIG LEWIS.