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Page last updated at 13:05 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 14:05 UK

Ferris is among 14 Ireland Lions

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Lions trip is the pinnacle - Ferris

Ireland will have a record 14-strong representation in this year's British and Irish Lions squad in South Africa.

Skipper Paul O'Connell is named in the forwards with Stephen Ferris, Jamie Heaslip, David Wallace, Jerry Flannery, Donncha O'Callaghan and Alan Quinlan.

The backs include Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald, Tommy Bowe, Ronan O'Gara, Tomas O'Leary and Keith Earls.

Quinlan is a shock choice while those to miss out include hooker Rory Best.

Wales have 13 representatives with eight England players included and only two Scots making the trip.

Gordon D'Arcy, Marcus Horan and John Hayes are the only members of Ireland's starting line-up in the Grand Slam decider against Wales to miss out.

Ireland's previous biggest representation on a Lions tour was in 2005 when 11 players were selected, with Malcolm O'Kelly later joining the squad as a replacement.

Earls has provided a dynamic presence for Heineken Cup holders Munster this season while 34-year-old Quinlan is a renowned hard-man who will relish the challenge of a South African trip.

Youngster Earls, normally a centre but who can also play full-back, made his Ireland debut last November but did not feature in the Grand Slam-winning campaign.

The eight-strong Munster contingent also equals the Lions record for one team, jointly held by Newport (1910) and Leicester (2005), when then Lions boss Sir Clive Woodward took an inflated squad.

606: DEBATE
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The squad will leave for the 10-match tour, which includes Tests in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg, on 24 May - a day after the Heineken Cup final.

Ulster flanker Ferris described his selection as the "pinnacle of rugby".

"It hasn't really sunk in yet and I don't think it will for a few days," said Ferris, who was informed of the good news after Ulster training on Tuesday.

"I was out here training my guts out for a couple of hours and after I had a shower, I was kicking a ball about when our fitness coach Jonny Davis came out and gave me the thumbs up."

Ireland's skipper O'Driscoll was the other contender for the captaincy.

O'Connell described his selection as skipper as a "fabulous honour".

"This was never something I aspired to do but to be selected is a great honour," said the Munster and Ireland lock.

"I looked at the squad last night and it will be a privilege to lead them.

"Brian (O'Driscoll) gave me a ring the other day after we had spoken to Ian and was great about it.

Paul is a very special character

Lions coach Ian McGeechan

"The main thing will be leaning on the experience of the coaches and leaders within the squad.

"It needs to be a big squad effort. That will be the secret to any success. The more people who have input the better."

O'Connell won three Lions caps against New Zealand in 2005 and was one of only two tourists to play in every minute of each Test, except for a spell in the sin-bin.

Since making a try-scoring debut against Wales in 2002 he has amassed 62 caps and become one of the northern hemisphere's most respected players.

He emulates England second row great Martin Johnson in leading the Lions despite not being national skipper at the time.

McGeechan said: "Paul has proved himself with Munster and Ireland.

"He drives a forward pack with his character and it was important to have that focus in the forwards.

"We need that impetus up front and Paul is a very special character."

No player other than the captain had been informed of his selection in advance, so leading candidates from the four home nations had an anxious wait before McGeechan finalised the tour party.

The Wasps director of rugby, who has been on three Lions trips as head coach (1989, 1993, 1997) and was the midweek coach four yeas ago, was understood to have decided on 30 of his squad ahead of last weekend, before inking in the final names.


British and Irish Lions squad

Backs: Lee Byrne (Wales), Rob Kearney (Ireland), Shane Williams (Wales), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Ugo Monye (England), Luke Fitzgerald (Ireland), Tommy Bowe (Ireland), Tom Shanklin (Wales), Jamie Roberts (Wales), Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland), Keith Earls (Ireland), Riki Flutey (England), Ronan O'Gara (Ireland), Stephen Jones (Wales), Mike Phillips (Wales), Harry Ellis (England), Tomas O'Leary (Ireland).

Forwards: Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), Andy Powell (Wales), David Wallace (Ireland), Stephen Ferris (Ireland), Alan Quinlan (Ireland), Joe Worsley (England), Martyn Williams (Wales), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Paul O'Connell (Ireland) (captain), Donncha O'Callaghan (Ireland), Simon Shaw (England), Nathan Hines (Scotland), Gethin Jenkins (Wales), Adam Jones (Wales), Andrew Sheridan (England), Phil Vickery (England), Euan Murray (Scotland), Jerry Flannery (Ireland), Lee Mears (England), Matthew Rees (Wales).



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see also
O'Connell handed Lions captaincy
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Jeremy Guscott column
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Lions squad selector
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Robinson into 'Lions contention'
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McGeechan eyeing Lions hopefuls
17 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Wilkinson's Lions hopes receding
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Henson not fit for Lions - Davies
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Cipriani back in Lions contention
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Davies defuses Wales-Ireland row
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McGeechan eyes potential Lions
06 Oct 08 |  Scottish
Video - 2009 Six Nations review
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union


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