Gatland orders choir practice for British Lions

The inspirational back-row stepped down as skipper of his country in January but will have the honour of becoming only the second man to captain the Lions on two tours - emulating Martin Johnson's feat.

Hansen expressed surprise at England captain Dylan Hartley's omission from squad, saying it indicated Gatland was set to use rival England hooker Jamie George as an impact player off the bench.

Warburton, who was Gatland's captain for Wales from 2011-16, found out he was being retained in the role when he got a phone call from Gatland as he sat in his vehicle at a supermarket waiting for his girlfriend to return with the shopping.

Biggar, 27, was one of 12 Welsh players named in Warren Gatland's 41-man party for this summer's tour. I was in a supermarket vehicle park and I hung up on Gats first time round. I was in a supermarket vehicle park - my wife was getting bread and milk and I didn't want to go in because the girl on the checkout lives rugby - and I hung up on Gats first time round.

"He did a great job for us in 2013", Lions coach Warren Gatland said Wednesday of the Wales flanker, "so for us it was a natural choice".

The Kiwi coach says it's important the Lions players "get an understanding of NZ, the people, their humour".

Hartley's understudy with England - was preferred as one of three hookers along with Ken Owens and Rory Best.

Among those unfortunate to miss out are Chris Robshaw, Joe Launchbury, Cian Healy, Rob Kearney, and Jonny and Richie Gray. He also claims that ignoring the exciting Scottish backline which ripped through Ireland in Murrayfield and managed 14 tries in the Six Nations to Wales' eight means that The Lions will miss out on exciting, attacking rugby for the upcoming tour.

But with Joe Schmidt preparing a squad for their tour of the United States and Japan, Best feels there is plenty for those harbouring disappointment to get their teeth into.

Reflecting on the appointment, Gatland said: "Sam is a great player, an outstanding leader and a winning Lions captain".

But the former lock added the experience Hartley had gained through a chequered career that has seen him sidelined for more than a year because of suspension would help him cope with this latest setback.

And Steve Borthwick, who is forwards coach for England and the Lions, has indicated that Hartley will be present for the two Tests.

"He's bounced back from a lot of things and there's no doubt that's exactly what he'll do now'".

With five matches against New Zealand's dominant Super Rugby teams, Gatland said the Lions faced the "toughest tour" but seized upon Ireland's shock 40-29 win over the All Blacks in Chicago in November as proof they were only human.

"That's why we've taken a few extra players than we did in 2013, we just needed to make sure we have the depth and quality in the squad to make sure we can handle the quality of the sides we're coming up against".

  • Julie Sanders