22 Apr 2009

Young Irish back bolter among the Lions

7:29 am on 22 April 2009

The young Ireland back Keith Earls is the surprise selection in the 37-strong British and Irish Lions rugby squad to tour South Africa.

The 21-year-old Earls, who plays centre and fullback for Munster, won the first of his two caps for Ireland last November, but he didn't feature in Ireland's grand slam-winning Six Nations campaign.

Another back in Ian McGeechan's side is England's New Zealand centre Rikki Flutey, who played against the Lions in a provincial game when they toured here four years ago.

Three of the four home nations captains missed out on the squad which will be led by the Irish lock Paul O'Connell, who gets the job despite the presence in the side of Brian O'Driscoll, the current Ireland captain and also the captain of the last Lions teams.

Only two first fives have been selected - Stephen Jones and Ronan O'Gara, meaning no place for the England trio Jonny Wilkinson, Toby Flood and Danny Cipriani.

The squad leaves for South Africa on the 24th of May.