Eleven Irish Players Named In Lions Squad

Ireland's victory over the All Blacks previous year was key to convincing the British and Irish Lions that they can win in New Zealand and that the double world champions are human after all, coach Warren Gatland said on Wednesday.

The Welshman, who led the Lions to victory in Australia four years ago, will captain the side for this summer's tour of New Zealand.

"Gatland has named a strong squad despite a couple of notable absentees but despite this, we think that All Blacks will be far too strong and it would be a success (for the Lions) to even win one Test", said Joe Crilly, a spokesman for bookmaker William Hill. And we are playing the best team, back-to-back world champions in their own backyard. "They weren't prepared culturally", Gatland said.

"Ultimately my goal is to play in the Tests and, if I can play with these players, make an impression and put a marker down then hopefully that will push the other guys".

"But I think the fact that me and Tommy are going is down to our team-mates, whether that's at Glasgow or Scotland. We have to perform away from home, that's going to be paramount".

Although the squad had been heavily leaked in advance of the announcement, there were a few shocks. Like "Hunt for the Wilderpeople". More New Zealanders - Jared Payne the surprise call-up - were included.

"If you can understand New Zealand, the intensity of the place and the opposition it makes us better prepared and it's those small things that will make us better on the field".

Gatland's squad will be aiming to become just the second Lions party to win a test series in New Zealand, with the combined side's lone series success against the All Blacks coming in 1971 - when tour manager John Spencer, the former England global, was in the squad.

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"I have to feel I deserve my place in the Lions team".

"The prognosis with him is a lot more positive than was first diagnosed in terms of it's an unusual injury with a capsule thing, or something, but the prognosis and the recovery is hopefully a lot better than what was potentially first suspected".

"Often players, when you try to communicate that, you see the glaze in players' eyes when you say they are fallible and they are like everyone else". He did a great job in 2013, so for us he was a natural choice. But we know how tough it will be - this is the toughest tour.

"But that also fires myself up and hopefully gives the players and the team the motivation to go out there and perform".

In contrast, New Zealand-born hooker Hartley is the third successive England skipper to miss out on Lions selection after Steve Borthwick and Chris Robshaw.

Gatland named Sexton as one of three out-halves alongside Wales's Dan Biggar and England's Owen Farrell, who will also provide an option for the Lions as a second receiver at inside centre.

A lengthy ban followed and though he returned to lead England to a second Six Nations championship in 12 months, the damage appeared to be done.

Former England and Lions wing Ugo Monye believes the Wales and Harlequins centre has a "proven track record" under Gatland and his potential inclusion would clearly define the way the Lions intend to play against the All Blacks.

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