England players react to Lions selection

England’s players have been reacting with joy and excitement after being confirmed in the British & Irish Lions squad for this summer’s tour of New Zealand.

Head coach Warren Gatland has named 16 England players in his squad for the three Test tour against world champions New Zealand.

Forwards Joe Marler, Mako Vunipola, Kyle Sinckler, Dan Cole, Jamie George, George Kruis, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes and Billy Vunipola have been named.

They are joined by backs Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, Jonathan Joseph, Ben Te’o, Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell in the squad.

Here’s how they reacted to their selection.

Exeter Chiefs wing Nowell said it's a "dream come true" to have been named in the squad.

Nowell, who has scored 11 tries in 23 appearances for England, will make history by becoming the first player to be included in the squad while playing for the Chiefs.

"It's pretty surreal at the minute, said Nowell. "I was watching the announcement on the TV with the boys and my named got called out.

"The fact I was with the boys at the time made it even more special. You kind of get a feeling how much it means to them as well and obviously it's down to them that I got into an England shirt in the first place.

"I'm so excited and it's reward for all that hard work that people have put into me over the years. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it."

Wasps’ centre Daly was taking a little time to absorb the news.

“It’s hard to put into words at the moment,” he said. “I’m sure it will sink in later this evening. It’s a hugely exciting moment for me and I can’t wait really.
 
“Not knowing in advance if you’re in or out gets everyone around the TV and you don’t know what’s going to happen. To hear my name read out was amazing and a moment I will never forget.
 
“To be involved in a squad containing that calibre of players is massive. I can’t wait to get out there and get involved.”

Saracens will have six players, the largest club representation of the 2017 tour.

“I’m chuffed for everyone who is involved but also disappointed for a few lads who aren’t (involved) as well, but it’s brilliant (to be one of six Saracens included),” said Farrell.

“A lot of us are around the same age, we’ve come through the ranks at Saracens together, so it’s even more exciting that we hopefully get to share this opportunity.”

Hooker George added: “It was pretty surreal to be honest, it’s not something I ever even dreamed of as a kid because it was so far out of the realms of my ambitions.”

“It’s just an incredible honour and I’m so happy to be doing it with the other lads.”

Itoje, 22, will be the youngest Lions player on tour and he said: “I feel pretty good.

“No matter when you start playing rugby or how long you’ve played rugby, you want to be part of the British & Irish Lions - I’m absolutely over the moon to have the opportunity to do so.”

Fellow lock Kruis added: “I was pretty nervous, we watched the announcement with 40/50 lads in the team room screaming and shouting, so yeah a massive achievement.

"I think if you look at the squad and everything like that, a lot of work has gone into the way producing talent and then holding onto it so, huge credit to everyone at Saracens.”

Brother Mako and Billy will also tour and they added: “It’s very special to share special occasions with your friends and family, so I’m delighted to be going,” said Mako.

“At Sarries, we talk about special bonds and forging close relationships. We have a really tight-knit group and the celebrations when the lads were named in the squad really proved that. We enjoy being around each other and sharing those kind of moments together as a group."

Brother Billy responded: “I was pretty nervous, they called my brother out first but I think I was just overjoyed that I managed to sneak into the squad. Obviously, there’s a lot of hard work between now and then but I’m just happy that I’m in the initial squad and we’ll see how we get on from there.”

Harlequins will have props Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler on tour and their director of rugby paid tribute to the pair.

“I am absolutely delighted for both Joe and Kyle, I’m sure in the case of the latter it has come as a huge surprise given that he hasn’t had a regular starting berth for England this season," said John Kingston.

“What everyone knows is that his style of play is extremely impactive and clearly the selectors have felt that the ability to have someone like that could be a very interesting option in New Zealand."

Bath rugby will be represented by Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph, while Ben Te’o becomes the first Worcester Warrior to be selected for a Lions tour.

Te'o made his England debut in November before helping them to the RBS 6 Nations title in March.

"It's a bit of a surprise and it wasn't till a couple of days ago that people were sending me links to articles and I was just trying not to get excited about it," he said.

"Everything's been ramped up in the last day or so and it's made me quite nervous but I'm glad it's now been decided.”

Leicester Tigers’ England duo Dan Cole and Ben Youngs are also selected as is Northampton Saints forward Courtney Lawes.


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