Ireland and Munster lock Paul O'Connell has been named as captain of the 2009 Lions Tour side to South Africa.
The 29 year-old Heineken Cup winning captain succeeds his Ireland teammate and soon to be Heineken Cup semi-final opponent Brian O'Driscoll becoming the 10th Irishman to lead the Lions Tour.
"Paul O'Connell has shown over his career that he is a natural leader both on and off the field. He leads from the front on the field and as a quality international has the respect of his fellow players all over the world. As a member of the 2005 tour to New Zealand Paul played in five matches including three Tests so knows all about the ethos and challenges of Lions tours." explained Lions' head coach Ian McGeechan at Tuesday's announcement in London.
The 37-man-squad is made up of 14 players from Ireland, 13 Welsh representatives, eight from England and two Scots while the Heineken Cup semi-finals on the 2/3 May could see 19 of the touring party line-out at Croke Park and the Millennium Stadium.
Reigning Heineken Cup champions Munster have the highest club representation with eight players named, followed by Cardiff Blues with six representatives, and then Leinster with four Lions included. Scrum-half Harry Ellis is the only representative travelling to South Africa with Ian McGeehan from the double Heineken Cup winners Leicester Tigers.
For the 19 players involved in the Heineken Cup semi-finals they will be hoping that the Heineken Cup final on the 23 May will be there last action in the Northern Hemisphere before they take the flight to South Africa.
Lee Byrne, Rob Kearney, Shane Williams, Leigh Halfpenny, Ugo Moyne, Luke Fitzgerald, Tommy Bowe, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts, Brian O'Driscoll, Keith Earls, Riki Flutey, Ronan O'Gara, Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips, Harry Ellis, Tomas O'Leary , Jamie Heaslip, Andy Powell, David Wallace , Stephen Ferris, Alan Quinlan, Joe Worsley, Martyn Williams , Alun-Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell (Captain), Donncha O'Callaghan, Simon Shaw, Nathan Hines , Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Andrew Sheridan, Phil Vickery, Euan Murray, Jerry Flannery, Lee Mears, Matthew Rees.
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.