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Best leads strong Lions contingent in Ireland squad

Best leads strong Lions contingent in Ireland squad

Eleven British & Irish Lions will head to Japan in the green of Ireland after Joe Schmidt named an experienced squad for his last hurrah as head coach.

Two-time Lion Rory Best – who will retire from rugby at the conclusion of the tournament – heads a strong 31-man squad.

He is one of six forwards with Lions experience, alongside Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander.

In the backs, World Rugby Player of the Year Johnny Sexton is the stand-out name and he is joined by fellow Lions Rob Kearney, Conor Murray, Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls.

Ireland beat Wales 22-17 in Cardiff last weekend and face Warren Gatland’s side again on Saturday in their final warm-up match.

They begin their campaign against Six Nations rivals Scotland on September 22.

Schmidt, who has been in charge for six years, said: “It was a difficult thing right from the start to have the 45 that we had.  We went down to 40 players and to go from 40 down to 31 was really difficult, but we had a process whereby we looked back through every training, looked through the games.

“There were some guys who obviously had more experience and probably had more credit in the bank and were more established and there were other guys who were trying to force their way into group and trying to get a balance of current form versus previous performance, it’s always a very, very difficult conundrum to try to solve.”

Forwards (17)
Rory Best (Ulster) (c)
Tadhg Beirne (Munster)
Jack Conan (Leinster)
Sean Cronin (Leinster)
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster)
Cian Healy (Leinster)
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster)
Iain Henderson (Ulster)
Jean Kleyn (Munster)
Peter O’Mahony (Munster)
Andrew Porter (Leinster)
Rhys Ruddock (Leinster)
James Ryan (Leinster)
John Ryan (Munster)
Niall Scannell (Munster)
CJ Stander (Munster)
Josh van der Flier (Leinster)

Backs (14)
Bundee Aki (Connacht)
Joey Carbery (Munster)
Jack Carty (Connacht)
Andrew Conway (Munster)
Keith Earls (Munster)
Chris Farrell (Munster)
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster)
Rob Kearney (Leinster)
Jordan Larmour (Leinster)
Luke McGrath (Leinster)
Conor Murray (Munster)
Garry Ringrose (Leinster)
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster)
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster)

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