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22 April 2017, 01:14 | Andy Ferguson
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Warren Gatland revealed his British and Irish Lions squad on Wednesday and now with eyes turning firmly to the forthcoming tour of New Zealand, his All Blacks opposite number, Steve Hansen, has taken his first swipe at the the tourists.
Ireland captain Rory Best says the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and Ireland's summer tour to the U.S. and Japan will provide "a great test" of Irish rugby's depth at worldwide level.
Warburton will be supported by a number of other former Lions with 2 players on their third and 14 on their second tour.
Yet there are some significant absentees, the most notable of which sees their captain Hartley overlooked in favour of his worldwide understudy Jamie George, who travels as one of three hookers alongside Rory Best and Ken Owens despite never having started a Test.
It was the havoc caused by Joseph against his Wales teams in the past that persuaded Gatland not to add him to a list of big-name English omissions that include Dylan Hartley, George Ford, Joe Launchbury, Mike Brown and Chris Robshaw. The intensity, the knowledge of the nation.it's not going to be like Australia in 2013 when we arrived in Melbourne and all of the people were saying: 'Who are the people wearing red jerseys?' They had no ideas the Lions were in town. I would be reluctant to take someone to New Zealand with a neck injury who hasn't played particularly.
"And we are not playing at home".
If there was heartache for Hartley, there was set to be uproar in Scotland. Martin Johnson is the only other player to have captained two Lions' squads (1997 and 2001).
That was indeed a very strong Lions party of 33, of whom 13 were Welsh players from the team that had earlier won the Five Nations Grand Slam.
The theme of continuity extended to Gatland's choice of captain.
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I talked myself out of it all the time, which is why the phone call (from Gatland) was surprising.
"It was the pinnacle of my career", Warburton said about the 2013 captaincy, "but this is another step up because it's New Zealand".
Warburton is now recovering from injury but should be fit by the time the tour kicks off on June 3.
They begin their 10-match tour against a Provincial Union side in Whangarei on June 3, with the first of three Tests against the All Blacks in Auckland on June 24.
Three surprise inclusions were Wales No. 8 Ross Moriarty, Ireland centreJared Payne and New Zealand-born England centreBen Te'o, while England prop Kyle Sinckler got the call even though all of his eight test appearances have come off the bench.
Jonny and Richie Gray were missing from Scotland's sparse two-man contingent, while Donnacha Ryan was also absent, George Kruis, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Iain Henderson and Alun Wyn Jones the preferred options.
They're very good players and somebody has to lose out and I'm not against that at all.
"They'll be expected to win this Test series, it's one of the best Lions teams that's been selected for a long, long time". New Zealand, the current world champion and top-ranked team, hasn't lost a three-test series since 1994. It is the Kiwis who have to cope with meaningful expectation, not the Lions. "Probably the hardest one we've had".
"I don't think it'll hold us back", he said of Scotland.
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