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BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS head coach Warren Gatland has announced his extended squad to tour Australia this summer. Join us for some healthy debate and argue the corner for your countrymen.

Ok, here we go. Just over 20 minutes away. Get your last minute predictions into the comments section [below] now so you can say ‘I told you so’.

We’ll get you started with this ill-advised tweet from the official Lions account:

Employees at the Australian Rugby Union, who I’m told are a healthy mix of Aussies, Kiwis, Scots, English, Welsh and Irish, have all voted on THEIR LIONS SQUAD. Here it is. Nine Irishmen involved:

[Wallabies Facebook Lions predictions]

Jonny Sexton fans breathe easy, Will Greenwood believes the Irish outhalf is a definite to travel. After that, he tells Sky Sports News, it is any two from about five players, including his old mucker, Johnny Wilkinson.

Will Greenwood: Preaching to the converted.

We were talking to to Jeremy Guscott and Scott Gibbs yesterday. The midfield partnership that rocked the Springboks in 1997 have had their say on Irish selections. Guscott thinks Bowe and Zebo will travel, with seven others from the Emerald Isle, while Gibbs has called on O’Driscoll to ride off into the sunset as the captain of a winning Lions squad.

The Lions have not won a Test Series against a host southern hemisphere country since 1997 in South Africa, losing 2-1 in Australia, 3-0 in New Zealand and 2-1 on their last visit to South Africa.

Five minutes to go here and my head is telling me Warburton as captain. My heart is telling me O’Driscoll, O’Connell and O’Gara will travel to Australia in one of those giant Superman ‘S’ badges that he used to rip off his chest back in the 80s.

Gatland has just been announced in a packed room at the Syon in London. Here we go…

Alex Payne from Sky will no doubt prattle on from five minutes before the announcement. Oh yes, here comes the first video promo. Get ready for a summer of this bombast.

Tour manager Andy Irvine: The man with the list of names. (Credit: Sky Sports News)

No captain sitting on the stage… yet.

37-man squad. Two more than many would have predicted.

Halfpenny, Hogg, Kearney; Bowe, Cuthbert, Maitland, North; Davies, O’Driscoll, Roberts, Tuilagi; Farrell; Sexton; Murray, Philips, B Youngs.

FORWARDS: D Cole, C Healy, G Jenkins, A Jones, M Stevens, M Vunipola; Hartley, R Hibbard, T Youngs; I Evans, R Gray, A-W Jones, P O’Connell, G Parling.

BR: Croft, Faletau, J Heaslip, D Lydiate, S O’Brien, J Tipuric, S Warburton.

Sam Warburton is captain!

Some absolute shockers in there. Matt Stevens, retired from England for over a year, goes in the front row. Jamie Heaslip goes ahead of Ben Morgan. Dylan Hartley (!) goes instead of Rory Best.

No Chris Robshaw, no Simon Zebo. No Greig Laidlaw. No Tim Visser, somehow. No Joe Launchbury.

What did you all make of that?

It was all happening so quick. I’m still in shock at some of it. Maitland makes the cut. Parling in ahead of his England teammate Launchbury. Three fullbacks – Hogg, Kearney and Halfpenny.

Nine Irish players in the 37-man squad. England’s back row was been sensationally snubbed by Gatland salves the festering hole by selecting Matt Stevens and Mako Vunipola in the front row.

‘Ideally I’d like to take everyone’. Take me Warren!

Lions squad in full with Irish players marked:

[Full backs] Leigh Halfpenny, Stuart Hogg, Rob Kearney*, [Wingers] Tommy Bowe*, Alex Cuthbert, Sean Maitland, George North; [Centre] Jonathan Davies, Brian O’Driscoll*, Jamie Roberts, Manu Tuilagi; [Outhalves] Owen Farrell, Jonathan Sexton*; [Scrumhalves] Conor Murray*, Mike Phillips, Ben Youngs.

[Props] Dan Cole, Cian Healy*, Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Matt Stevens, Mako Vunipola; [Hookers] Dylan Hartley, Richard Hibbard, Tom Youngs; [Second row] Ian Evans, Richie Gray, Alun Wyn Jones, Paul O’Connell*, Geoff Parling; [Back row] Tom Croft, Toby Faletau, Jamie Heaslip*, Dan Lydiate, Sean O’Brien*, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton.

Cheers for joining us. Stay with TheScore.ie for more reactions and insights over the day.

About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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