British & Irish Lions players react to being named in Warren Gatland's squad for South Africa tour
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Last Updated: 06/05/21 5:26pm
Reaction from around Britain and Ireland as the players found out they had been included in Warren Gatland's Lions squad for the tour to South Africa.
It was not a squad which anybody fully predicted. Exeter Chiefs back-row Sam Simmonds, who last played for England in 2018, has been included, while Bundee Aki, Jack Conan, Chris Harris and Jonny Hill are some other surprise inclusions.
Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is one of the high-profile names to miss out, along with Jonathan Davies, Kyle Sinckler, Billy Vunipola and James Ryan.
- Simmonds, Aki, Conan, Hill in 37-man Lions squad
- Gatland backs Simmonds to shine in South Africa
- Jones: Lions captaincy 'a huge privilege'
Some of the rumoured surprise call-ups, including Danny Care and Marcus Smith, did not come to be, but Care sent a classy message of congratulations to the squad after it had been announced.
"Congratulations to everyone selected for @lionsofficial today. Looks like a hell of a squad. I might be able to get some sleep now! Best of luck lads," the Quins scrum-half tweeted.
There was an enormous cheer as Harris' name was called out in the Gloucester training centre, as well as those of Anthony Watson and Taulupe Faletau for Bath, while Chris Boyd revealed that Dan Biggar and Courtney Lawes had made the cut on the training ground in front of their team-mates.
"I was pretty surprised, I just didn't really have any clue," Lawes said afterwards. "Some players got emails and things like that, but I didn't get an email.
"I didn't last time either, so I was pretty much in the dark and waiting to see if I would get a shot basically.
"And obviously not being fit at the minute I thought my chances were quite slim, but I'm very grateful for the opportunity.
"I don't think I really worried about it too much. I kind of guessed I didn't get an email either because I'm in the team, or because I'm nowhere near the team!"
Ali Price and Zander Fagerson also learned the good news in front of their team-mates, with Price saying afterwards: "I can't quite believe it. It's a dream come true and I can't wait to get started."
There was no public announcement for Wyn Jones, who told Sky Sports News he watched the naming of the squad on his own in the car park after training.
"I literally just jumped in the car, didn't even shower, just jumped in the car," Wales front-row Jones said.
"Grabbed a takeaway coffee and watched in the car on my own, I didn't have time to get home."
Scotland prop Rory Sutherland also watched the game on his own, despite being asked to watch it with the squad, and said to Sky Sports News afterwards: "I can't believe it, I'm absolutely shaking. I've just been told I'm not allowed to swear so I'll struggle to put it into words!"
England second-row Maro Itoje posted on social media: "I feel deeply honoured and privileged to be selected for the tour this summer! Thanks for all the kind words and messages!!"
Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies told the Scarlets website: "It's been a nerve-wracking couple of days, I've been trying not to think about it too much. I'm absolute dead chuffed to be named in the squad."
At his unveiling as captain on Thursday afternoon, Alun Wyn Jones said he initially missed Gatland's telephone call on Sunday asking him to do the job, and the coach admitted it was an anxious few hours' wait to hear from the Wales skipper.
"I did panic for a few hours before he rang me back! But it was a great conversation, a little bit of apprehension I think, realising the responsibility and privilege to be able to do that," Gatland said.
There was no such panic from Jones, who recounted: "I had a missed call from 'Gats' on Sunday evening, so I thought I'd better give him a call back and we had a quick chat, and accepted."
From 6pm, tune in on Sky Sports for the Lions Announcement Special, where Alex Payne will be joined by Warren Gatland and Alun Wyn Jones as well as Bryan Habana and Will Greenwood.