Alun Wyn Jones to captain British and Irish Lions as Warren Gatland unveils touring squad for South Africa

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Welsh great Alun Wyn Jones has made more international appearances than any other player in history. Credit: PA

Alun Wyn Jones has been named as British and Irish Lions captain as Warren Gatland unveils his 36-man squad for the summer tour to South Africa.

Jones is the game's most capped player with 157 Test appearances and this will be his fourth Lions tour.

He will be in charge from the start of the tour in July until August and lead the Lions to three test series against the world champion Springboks.

Louis Rees Zammit was one of the brightest stars of the 2021 Six Nations. Credit: PA

Nine other Welsh internationals were named in the 37 man squad alongside Jones.

Louis Rees Zammit, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies and Liam Williams were selected in the backs.

Taulupe Faletau, Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Justin Tipuric are among the forwards selected.

Captain Jones described the "huge honour" of captaining the historic touring side but said now was not the time to "take your foot off the gas."

He said: "To be selected in the squad is initially what you want to be hearing as a player. To have the armband as well is a privilege."

Asked how he had found out, Jones said: "I had a call from Gats on Sunday evening, actually a missed call. Thought better give him a call back.

"We had a quick chat and I accepted obviously. I've just got a huge amount of pride to add this to the CV, but obviously there's a lot of work to do once we get out there." 

The 35-year-old was revealed as skipper by head coach Gatland in a livestream on Thursday.

Gatland described the selection process for the 37 man squad as the "hardest and most challenging" he has even been involved in despite being head coach on two previous tours.

He said: "It is trying to get the balance. At the end of the day, selection is just a matter of opinion and we've got to try and put the best squad together.

"We are trying to put a squad together that we think can go down there and win the series."

Gatland continued: "To those players that have been selected, congratulations. I know it's going to be challenging for a number of aspects. I just hope firstly that they thoroughly enjoy the tour and represent their four home nations the best they possibly can."

On naming 37 players rather than the expected 36, Gatland said: "Particularly looking at our loose forwards, and the attrition, getting an extra number there is a bit of a back-up. We wanted to keep the numbers down but a 37-man squad was something we looked at yesterday." 

Gatland knows taking on the world champions will be a huge challenge.

"It's not going to be easy," he said.

"It's probably using the experience from the last tour. Back in 2009 we played pretty well in the lead-up but the physicality they brought to the first Test was something we weren't quite ready for.

"We came away thinking we'd done a pretty good job, restored some respect back into the jersey. But we were disappointed, we felt we could have drawn or even won.

"We're going back to South Africa with the ultimate goal of continuing what we've built on and building the Lions brand. It's unique, it's incredibly special."

Jones was the bookies favourite for the captain role after he led Wales to the Six Nations title in March.

He played a key role with the Lions in 2009, 2013 and 2017 - featuring in the last 9 test matches - and captaining the side in their series winning match against Australia in 2013.

Another returning Lion is Scarlets and Wales hooker Ken Owen who, like the rest of the squad, found out he had been selected when it was announced to the public.

Full British and Irish Lions squad:

Josh Adams (Wales), Bundee Aki (Ireland), Dan Biggar (Wales), Elliot Daly (England), Gareth Davies (Wales), Owen Farrell (England), Chris Harris (Scotland), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Conor Murray (Ireland), Ali Price (Scotland), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), Finn Russell (Scotland), Duhan Van Der Merwe (Scotland), Anthony Watson (England), Liam Williams (Wales), Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), Jack Conan (Ireland), Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), Tom Curry (England), Zander Fagerson (Scotland), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Jamie George (England), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Jonny Hill (England), Maro Itoje (England), Wyn Jones (Wales), Courtney Lawes (England), Ken Owens (Wales), Andrew Porter (Ireland), Sam Simmonds (England), Rory Sutherland (Scotland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Mako Vunipola (England), Hamish Watson (Scotland), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales, capt).

Dawes played for Wales 22 times between 1964 and 1971. Credit: PA

The squad announcement comes on the same day as the funeral of former Lions captain John Dawes.

Dawes captained the Lions on the 1971 tour of New Zealand, which is still the Lions' only series win over the All Blacks.

Wales and Lions legends Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams were among those paying their respects to John Dawes Credit: ITV Wales

People lined the street in Llandaff in memory of John Dawes and his funeral was attended by Welsh rugby greats Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams.