Best 'gutted' to be out of Lions squad

Published Tuesday, 30 April 2013
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Ulster's Rory Best is the shock omission from the British and Irish Lions squad, revealed on Tuesday.

Best 'gutted' to be out of Lions squad
Sam Warburton (centre) during the British and Irish Lions squad announcement. (© Getty)

At one point, the 30-year-old had been tipped to captain the side - an honour that went to Wales player Sam Warburton.

But the hooker was left out of the 37-man squad announced by Lions manager Andy Irvine, with spaces instead for England's Dylan Hartley and Tom Youngs alongside Wales' Richard Hibbard.

The Co Armagh man's teammate Tommy Bowe made the cut, alongside fellow Ireland players Rob Kearney, Jonathan Sexton, Cian Healy, and Jamie Heaslip.

"To get the call, it's given me a huge boost to the confidence," Bowe told UTV, during a trip to Belfast Zoo to feed the lions.

Best took to Twitter to Tuesday evening to express his disappointment, but also tweet his congratulations to Bowe - adding that all the "hard work getting back from the injury has paid off".

Head coach Warren Gatland, who also failed to name England's Jonny Wilkinson and Chris Robshaw, said the decision had not been taken lightly.

"There was a robust debate about the squad and there were healthy discussions for every position.

"Some real quality players have missed out. We had a thorough process and it's been tough."

He did offer hope to those left out, however, saying: "If you look at previous tours six to eight players get injured and there will be a group of back-up players who can be called upon."

Brian O'Driscoll is also among the nine Irishmen on the full squad for his fourth tour, alongside 2009 captain Paul O'Connell.

At just 24, Warburton is the youngest Welsh Lions captain in history and he has bounced back from injury sustained in this season's Six Nations to lead the tour.

Two years ago, the Cardiff Blues flanker captained Wales into the World Cup semi-finals, in which his side gave their best performance in 24 years.

And while rugby fans were speculating over who would take the top spot, Warburton admitted he had known about the news for some time.

He said: "Warren gave me a call, it's been nine or 10 days since I found out and the biggest secret I've had to keep.

"It's unbelievable, an accolade very few people achieve and it's an unbelievable honour."

Gatland's squad is split into 16 backs and 21 forwards and, four weeks from Tuesday, the party will leave for Hong Kong where they open the 10-match tour against the Barbarians on 1 June.

The Lions then head to Australia with the first of three Tests against the Wallabies in Brisbane on 22 June.

Full Squad

L Halfpenny, S Hogg, R Kearney, G North, A Cuthbert, T Bowe, S Maitland, B O'Driscoll, M Tuilagi, J Roberts, J Davies, J Sexton, O Farrell, C Murray, M Phillips, B Youngs, G Jenkins, C Healy, M Vunipola, A Jones, D Cole, M Stevens, D Hartley, R Hibbard, T Youngs, I Evans, R Gray, AW Jones, P O'Connell, G Parling, T Croft, T Faletau, J Heaslip, D Lydiate, S O'Brien, J Tipuric, S Warburton (capt).

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Vinny EIRE 32 in Finglas Dublin wrote (637 days ago):
Well said Stephen i agree wit u 100%. It was nice talking to u. Oh and good result for Ulster and lenister yesterday enjoy the lions games and hopefully best gets the call.....
Stephen calderwood in dungannon wrote (638 days ago):
Hi vinny. Thanks again for your reply. It was good of you to answer. No one in there right mind who supports Irish rugby will want the B@I lions to fail.but the shock of bad selections ,mixed with the passion of the game will make some people say strange things. It happens in all walks of life, (especially politics). The whole of Irish rugby is now dominated by external forces, and that includes the men with the money and the NZ/AUS coaches. Spare a thought for Connaught, who have come on leaps and bounds lately. Where will they end up next season.? WHY IS GATLAND IN CHARGE OF THE B@I LIONS? Vinny, I wish you well.
Vinny EIRE 32 in Finglas Dublin wrote (639 days ago):
Stephen no i wouldnt be happy if no lenister or Munster lads were picked but id still be happy for the Ulster lads if they where picked this is sport you take the good with the bad i wouldnt be wishin for the team to lose. At the end off the day we are all Irish we should be behind the players who where picked and be proud off our Country
stephen calderwood in dungannon wrote (639 days ago):
Yes Vinney thank you for your reply. I appreciate that. Everyone on this island has there own opinion of what the 32 should be. Rugby transcends that. You wear the green jersey with emmenence pride, if your are lucky enough to get to that level. People up here are so happy to be in a position where the nine are in a strong position in rugby. But only Tommy made it. What would you have said if no Dublin men were picked? If ulster (9 ) can beat cardiff on Friday we will have the chance of a HOME final against Leinster in your RDS. I rest my case.
Joanne Kilic in Armagh wrote (639 days ago):
As a Leinster supporter I am appalled that Rory Best has not been called up. I would also have liked to see Andrew Trimble and possibly Chris Henry in the team. I cannot understand how W.Gatland thinks that no-neck Hartley is a better hooker than Rory. He should have watched Ireland play Australia in last world cup, that game was won by players in the low numbers, Best being one of the best!Still with his disciplinary record I suppose Hartley can always bite whoever gets in his way. Delighted for Tommy Bowe and all the Irish in the team.
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