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It was quite a surprise but Bundee Aki has joined an elite list of Connacht Rugby players to go on the British And Irish Lions Tour.
Warren Gatland named AKI in his touring squad, it was expected Garry Ringrose would have been selected but Bundeee got the nod.
The previous Connacht players to play for the Lions are Ray McLoughlin (1966, 1971), John O’Driscoll (1980, 1983) & Ciaran Fitzgerald (1983) who were all before the professional era.
Several players are named in a Lions squad for a first time, including Josh Adams, Bundee Aki, Chris Harris, Ali Price, Louis Rees-Zammit, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Zander Fagerson, Iain Henderson, Jonny Hill, Wyn Jones, Andrew Porter, Sam Simmonds, Rory Sutherland and Hamish Watson.
“We believe we’ve picked a squad capable of winning a Test series in South Africa,” said Gatland.
“Selecting a Lions squad is never easy and, in many ways, this has been the most challenging selection I have been involved in. Over the course of the last three weeks the coaches and I have rigorously debated each position.
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“We saw some outstanding performance in the recent Six Nations, so competition for places has been tough with some incredibly tight calls to make.
“However, we are very happy with the squad we have assembled and look forward to meeting up in Jersey in just over a month’s time to start our preparation to take on the World Champions. We’ve left out some very talented players which gives an indication to the strength of this squad and we know how important that stand-by list will be.
“Being selected for a Lions Tour is the greatest honour for a British and Irish player and I congratulate everyone named today.”
Josh Adams (Cardiff, Wales) Wing
Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland) Centre
Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) Fly-half
Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) Centre
Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales) Scrum-half
Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) Fly-half
Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland) Centre
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) Centre
Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland) Full-back
Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland) Scrum-half
Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) Scrum-half
Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby, Wales) Wing
Finn Russell (Racing 92, Scotland) Fly-half
Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland) Wing
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) Wing
Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales) Full-back
Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland) Second row
Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) Back row
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England) Hooker
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) Back row
Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) Prop
Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales) Back row
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) Prop
Jamie George (Saracens, England) Hooker
Iain Henderson (Ulster Rugby, Ireland) Second row
Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, England) Second row
Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) Second row
Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, Wales) (Captain) Second row
Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) Prop
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) Second row
Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) Hooker
Andrew Porter (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) Prop
Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England) Back row
Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland) Prop
Justin Tipuric (Ospreys, Wales) Back row
Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England) Prop
Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland) Back row