Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones, the most capped international rugby player in history, will skipper the British & Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa this year, the team announced on Thursday.
The 35-year-old, who has 157 test appearances, including 148 for Wales, will lead the side during his fourth tour with the Lions after playing key roles in 2009, 2013 and 2017.
"I'm very proud to be named captain," Jones said. "To be selected in the squad is initially where you want to be, but to have the armband as well is a privilege.
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"As a rugby player you want to be involved in the matches you see as a child growing up. To play in these games is a huge honour."
Jones, who has featured in each of the last nine Lions test matches, guided Wales to the Six Nations title in March to emerge as the top contender to skipper the touring side.
He takes over from compatriot Sam Warburton, who was Lions captain for the 2013 tour to Australia and the 2017 visit to New Zealand. Warburton retired in 2018 due to a neck injury.
Coach Warren Gatland confirmed a 37-man squad for the tour of South Africa.
Backs: Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales) – Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland) – Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) – Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) – Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales) – Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) – Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland) – Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) – Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland) – Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland) – Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) – Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby, Wales) – Finn Russell (Racing 92, Scotland) – Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland) – Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) – Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales)
Forwards: Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland) – Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) – Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England) – Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) – Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) – Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales) – Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) – Jamie George (Saracens, England) – Iain Henderson (Ulster Rugby, Ireland) – Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, England) – Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) – Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, Wales) (Captain) – Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) – Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) – Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) – Andrew Porter (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) – Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England) – Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland) – Justin Tipuric (Ospreys, Wales) – Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England) – Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)
Commenting on his selection, Gatland said: "To those players who have been selected, congratulations, we know it’s going to be challenging from a number of aspects ...
"I hope that firstly they really enjoy the tour ... and represent their four home nations as best as they possibly can."
Gatland added that Jones would need to justify his selection, as being tour captain is no guarantee of a place in the side.
"The conversation (with Jones) was, and this was the same with Sam Warburton on a couple of occasions, that your form has to be good enough to be selected in the test side. It is a great honour to be tour captain, but you have to play well," Gatland said.
Gatland, who said squad selection was "subjective", made a number of surprise omissions, including Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton, and England prop Kyle Sinckler, centre Manu Tuilagi and number eight Billy Vunipola. Instead, Sam Simmonds, who has not played a test for England since 2018, was named in the squad in place of Vunipola.
"There were a lot of factors to take into consideration, you are looking at form from the Six Nations, players who have performed for you in the past," Gatland said. "Players who have won trophies and championships at club level, and then some younger players that you feel you can develop on the tour.
"You want a squad that is going to be competitive, but also play some good rugby and look to improve as the tour goes on."
The Lions are set for an eight-match tour, including three tests against world champions South Africa, from July 3-Aug. 7 under strict Covid-19 protocols.
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