British and Irish Lions 2017: Ross Moriarty's birthday surprise call-up

Jonathan Davies (left), Ross Moriarty (centre) and Alun Wyn Jones are three of 12 Wales players in the Lions squad
Jonathan Davies (left), Ross Moriarty (centre) and Alun Wyn Jones are three of 12 Wales players in the Lions squad

Wales flanker Ross Moriarty turned 23 on Tuesday - and got a birthday surprise with a call-up to the British and Irish Lions squad on Wednesday.

Moriarty enjoyed a fine Six Nations campaign despite Wales' three defeats, keeping usual first-choice number eight Taulupe Faletau out of the team.

The Gloucester player was rewarded with a place in Warren Gatland's 41-man Lions squad to tour New Zealand.

"This is Christmas and birthday all wrapped up in one," said Moriarty.

He continued: "I don't think it's sunk in properly yet - I was pretty emotional after that. It was a surprise with so many big names in that squad.

"The list was getting longer and longer and my doubt was setting in, I just couldn't believe it.

"I listened to on my phone at the same time as everyone else. I was sitting in a restaurant trying to eat my food."

BBC Sport

Moriarty's inclusion was one of the most surprising elements of Wednesday's Lions squad announcement.

Among his competitors for a back-row Test place in New Zealand will be compatriots Faletau, Justin Tipuric and tour captain Sam Warburton.

Moriarty, whose father Paul and uncle Richard both played for Wales, will become the first man in his family to represent the Lions.

"It's definitely been an emotional day for all my family. I couldn't ask for anything more. This is the biggest achievement of my career to date so it's massive," he told BBC Wales Sport.

"I've not even had the Lions on my mind this season, until the end of the Six Nations.

"All I've been concentrating on is my own personal performance, and that's paid off for Gloucester and for Wales. I'm just really happy with the call-up.

"I've not spoken with Warren since he was last involved with Wales so I've had no inkling of being involved or not.

"Since the last World Cup I've been involved a lot more [with Wales], I feel I've taken my chances and created my own luck."

Knowing the enemy

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Scarlets and Wales centre Jonathan Davies, who made three appearances for the Lions on their successful tour of Australia in 2013, says the Welsh contingent will be at an advantage having toured New Zealand in the summer of 2016.

"From a Welsh perspective, we toured there last summer and first two tests we were competitive for the first 60 minutes or so," Davies said.

"It just showed the quality and you can't let up in the tests with them because any mistakes you given them they capitalise.

"They put pressure on you and inevitably they win the close games. I think what helps is a lot of the Irish boys went well against them in the Autumn last year had that victory in Chicago and there's experience in the squad of being in New Zealand and hopefully that will help them on the trip."

Davies will not be joined in New Zealand by his Scarlets teammate and fellow centre Scott Williams, but was full of praise for his partner.

"I've spoken with Scott a bit as well and he seems alright and I think for us now as a partnership moving forward with the Scarlets we have to focus on securing the play offs in the Pro12," he continued.

"He congratulated me over text and we had a bit of a chat. He'll cope with it I'm sure and he'll bounce back. He's an excellent player. I'm disappointed for him but he'll be fine.

I was very appreciative of the text from him and I have every confidence he can show what he's capable of."

Waiting for a call-up

Rory Best (Ireland), Dan Cole (England), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Jamie George (England), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Maro Itoje (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), George Kruis (England), Courtney Lawes (England), Joe Marler (England), Jack McGrath (Ireland), Ross Moriarty (Wales), Sean O'Brien (Ireland), Peter O'Mahony (Ireland), Ken Owens (Wales), Kyle Sinckler (England), CJ Stander (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Billy Vunipola (England), Mako Vunipola (England), Sam Warburton (Wales);Dan Biggar (Wales), Elliot Daly (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Owen Farrell (England), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Jonathan Joseph (England), Conor Murray (Ireland), George North (Wales), Jack Nowell (England), Jared Payne (Ireland), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Tommy Seymour (Scotland), Ben Te'o (England), Anthony Watson (England), Rhys Webb (Wales), Liam Williams (Wales), Ben Youngs (England)

Fellow Scarlet Ken Owens also received his call-up to travel to New Zealand, along with fellow hookers Jamie George and Rory Best, but England's Dylan Hartley missed out on selection.

Owens, who has won 50 caps for Wales since making his debut in 2011, found out about his selection while on a short holiday.

"I know people think that we have advanced warning but I found out like everyone else," Owens said.

"We are away in Pembrokeshire on a short break with family and friends and we managed to find a TV to watch the announcement.

"It was a bit surreal hearing it to be honest. I've watched a couple of Lions squads named in the past and it was definitely nice to have my name read out.

"As nice as it was it was definitely quite nerve-wracking. 'O' is quite far down the alphabet so I had to wait quite a bit for it to be read out."

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