The Lions Tour: 14 days to the first game, 14 facts about this year’s tour.
Leigh Halfpenny is the only ‘oversees’ player to be in the squad, playing his rugby for French Top14 side Toulon. All other players ply their trade in either England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
The Lions have just six wins against the All Blacks. Their last came on the 1993 tour in Wellington, captained by Scotsman Gavin Hastings. Their record against New Zealand stands at six victories, three draws and 29 defeats.
The biggest age gap of this year’s squad is between Englishman Maro Itoje who turned 22 in October, and Ireland captain Rory Best who’s twelve years older.
Two of the Test matches will be played at the formidable Eden Park in Auckland, where New Zealand are unbeaten since 1994.
The Vunipola brothers are the tenth pair of brothers to be selected for a Lions tour.
1888 Robert and William Burnet (Scottish)
1891 Edward and William Bromet (English)
1896 Louis and James Magee (Irish)
1903 James and Joseph Wallace (Irish)
1908 Jack and Tuan Jones (Welsh)
1989 Gavin and Scott Hastings (Scottish)
1993 Gavin and Scott Hastings (Scottish) & Rory and Tony Underwood (English)
2013 Tom and Ben Youngs (English)
2017 Mako and Billy Vunipola (English)
41 players make up 2017’s tour. 15 Englishman, 12 Welsh, 11 Irish and three Scottish players.
With Welshman Sam Warburton being named captain the Lions have followed a familiar pattern. Before Warburton the two most recent tours were captained by Irishman, with the two-previous skippered by an Englishman and the two before that led by Scotsmen.
Seven different venues will play host to the Lions on the tour – Whangarei, Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Rotorua, Hamilton and Wellington
Back to back European champions Saracens have provided the most players. Owen Farrell, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje and George Kruis – the Saracens Six!
All New Zealand players will be allowed to play for their club side when the Lions play their warm up games. They’ll be taking on five Super Rugby sides the Blues, Crusaders, Highlanders, Chiefs and Hurricanes.
The first and only test series win the Lions have against the All Blacks was in 1971 where two out of the four games were won by a team captained by Welshman John Dawes and a draw in the final game sealing the series. 26 games were played on the tour starting on 12th May and finishing on 14th August – now that’s a long tour!
The last Lions tour to Australia was their first tour win for 16 years after defeats to Australia in 2001, New Zealand in 2005 and South Africa in 2009 left them on a baron losing spell. The 2013 tour was sealed with a 16-41 win in the final deciding test.
Two players in Gatland’s squad will be featuring on their third tours – Wales internationals Alun Wyn Jones and Leigh Halfpenny.
The Lions will play 10 matches spanning 35 days, starting on Saturday 3rd June and finishing on Saturday 8th July.