The waiting is over and finally the eagerly awaited British and Irish Lions squad to South Africa has been announced. Warren Gatland has named a 37-man squad with Wales Alun Wyn Jones captaining the side. The popular Welshman will return to South Africa, twelve years after facing the Springboks.

Big boots to fill for Jones

Jones will follow in the footsteps of fellow locks Willie John McBride in 1974, Martin Johnson in 1997 and Paul O’Connell in 2009.

South Africa will be his fourth Lions tour in a row with nine consecutive Test appearances. Having driven Wales to their sixth Six Nations title since 2005, Jones was a simple choice for skipper.

First time call ups for a host of players

Several players have been named in the squad for the first-time including Josh Adams, Bundee Aki and Chris Harris. Other names to be included for the first time are Ali Price, Louis Rees-Zammit, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Zander Fagerson and Iain Henderson. Jonny Hill, Andrew Porter, Sam Simmonds, Rory Sutherland and Hamish Watson.

Exeter’s Simmonds is included ahead of fellow England number 8 Billy Vunipola. The experienced Irish fly-half Johnny Sexton has been left out of the squad. There are also no places for Jonny May and Henry Slade along with Wales centre Jonathan Davies.

No place for England’s Sinckler

Another notable omission is England’s Kyle Sinckler, who has featured heavily in Eddie Jones side. Before Gatland’s announcement word was that the two form players in the Gallagher Premiership this season could well get picked. However, the Harlequins pair of Danny Care and Marcus Smith failed to get the nod.

The squad consists of 11 England players, 10 from Wales and eight each from Scotland and Ireland.

The Lions build up to the opening test will include a game against Japan at Murrayfield on 26th June before the opening test in Johannesburg on 24th July.

British and Irish Lions 2021 squad

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

Backs: Josh Adams (Wal), Bundee Aki (Ire), Dan Biggar (Wal), Elliot Daly (Eng), Gareth Davies (Wal), Owen Farrell (Eng), Chris Harris (Sco), Robbie Henshaw (Ire), Stuart Hogg (Sco), Conor Murray (Ire), Ali Price (Sco), Lewis Rees-Zammit (Wal), Finn Russell (Sco), Duhan van der Merwe (Sco), Anthony Watson (Eng), Liam Williams (Wal).