Graham Rowntree leads forwards in British & Irish Lions rugby tour to Australia

LEADING THE LIONS: Assistant  coaches Graham Rowntree (left) and Rob Howley (second left), head Coach Warren Gatland and assistant coach Andy Farrell (right)

LEADING THE LIONS: Assistant coaches Graham Rowntree (left) and Rob Howley (second left), head Coach Warren Gatland and assistant coach Andy Farrell (right)

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THE Lions are ready to roar and they have a Hartlepool man at the head of the pride.

Graham Rowntree, from the town, is the forwards coach for the British & Irish Lions for their summer tour of Australia.

It is the second Lions trip in succession for the former Leicester and England prop, who is Stuart Lancaster’s pack coach for England.

He was chosen by Lions head coach Warren Gatland for this summer’s tour along with fellow coaches Andy Farrell and Rob Howley.

Gatland today named his 37-man squad, which will be led by Wales star Sam Warburton.

There were no places for either England skipper Chris Robshaw or 2003 World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson, who many felt had played his way into the party after starring for Toulon in the Heineken Cup.

Gatland handed surprise call-ups to Scotland wing Sean Maitland, England prop Mako Vunipola and 2005 Lions tourist Matt Stevens.

Cardiff Blues flanker Warburton, at 24 the youngest Welsh Lions captain in history, will lead a squad comprising 14 of his compatriots.

While Wales are celebrating their largest Lions contingent since 16 players travelled to New Zealand 36 years ago, England provide 10 members of Gatland’s squad, one more than in South Africa four years ago.

Stevens, who missed the 2009 tour while serving a two-year drugs ban, retired from England duty after the 2011 Rugby World Cup but has been included as one of three tight-head options.

There are nine Irishmen while Scotland provide only three players including the New Zealand-born wing Maitland.

The 37-man British and Irish Lions squad selected by head coach Warren Gatland for the tour of Hong Kong and Australia is:

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).