Lions 2013: Rory Best left out of squad for Australia

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Bowe in Lions squad but Best misses out

Ireland's Rory Best has been omitted from the British and Irish Lions squad to tour Australia this summer.

The Ulster hooker was not included in the 37-man party, with Dylan Hartley, Richard Hibbard and Tom Youngs named.

Tommy Bowe was one of nine Irish players selected by coach Warren Gatland, but Simon Zebo misses out.

Rob Kearney, Brian O'Driscoll, Jonny Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy, Paul O'Connell, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip are all named in the panel.

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Ireland hooker Rory Best admits he was hugely disappointed to have missed out on Lions selection.

Best had been tipped to travel 'Down Under' and had even been mentioned as a potential captain, so his exclusion comes as something of a surprise.

Gatland admitted that leaving out Best had "probably been our hardest decision".

"It was the longest one in terms of the debate we had. You've got to feel for Rory - he's been really unlucky," he said.

Bowe takes his place despite missing most of the season, and all of the Six Nations championship, with a knee injury.

The winger, renowned for his explosive pace, was also part of the Lions squad which toured South Africa in 2009.

Sexton has also suffered an injury-plagued season but is expected to be first-choice fly-half for the three Test matches against the Wallabies.

Munster scrum-half Murray will be delighted to have been included, and he will contend with Mike Phillips and Ben Youngs for the number nine shirt.

Former Lions skippers O'Connell and O'Driscoll will bring plenty of experience to the party, with Wales back-row Sam Warburton assuming the captaincy on this occasion.

O'Driscoll becomes only the third player ever - and the third Irishman - to go on four Lions tours. Two other Irish legends, Willie John McBride and Mike Gibson, both made five.

O'Connell has been called up for his third tour of duty, having also been part of the 2005 and 2009 squads.

In total, there are 15 Welshmen, 10 players from England, nine from Ireland and three Scots in the squad.

Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson and England captain Chris Robshaw are among the other notable absentees.

The Lions will play 10 matches in Australia, with the first Test taking place in Brisbane on 22 June.

Lions squad for 2013 tour

Backs: Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Rob Kearney (Ireland), Tommy Bowe (Ireland), Alex Cuthbert (Wales), Sean Maitland (Scotland), George North (Wales), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland), Jamie Roberts (Wales), Manu Tuilagi (England), Owen Farrell (England), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Conor Murray (Ireland), Mike Phillips (Wales), Ben Youngs (England).

Forwards: Dan Cole (England), Cian Healy (Ireland), Gethin Jenkins (Wales), Adam Jones (Wales), Matt Stevens (England), Mako Vunipola (England), Dylan Hartley (England), Richard Hibbard (Wales), Tom Youngs (England), Ian Evans (Wales), Richie Gray (Scotland), Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales), Paul O'Connell (Ireland), Geoff Parling (England), Tom Croft (England), Toby Faletau (Wales), Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), Dan Lydiate (Wales), Sean O'Brien (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Sam Warburton (Wales).

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