As expected, Clive Woodward has appointed Brian O'Driscoll as captain of the 44-man Lions squad to tour New Zealand this summer.

O'Driscoll heads a strong Irish contingent of 11 players. The party also features 20 Englishmen while RBS 6 Nations champions Wales have 10 Lions, but struggling Scotland are confined to scrum-half Chris Cusiter, hooker Gordon Bulloch and back-row forward Simon Taylor.

Jonny Wilkinson has been left out - but he could still travel if he regains full fitness.

Centre Mike Tindall (foot) and prop Phil Vickery (broken arm) are in in an identical position to Wilkinson.

"If they confirm genuine form and fitness in the coming weeks, they could still go," said Woodward.

"My thinking is it is better they try to do so with their clubs before becoming part of the Lions squad."

Woodward has chosen 14 of his victorious 2003 England World Cup squad, and nine of the World Cup final starting XV, but he was at pains to point out the Welsh and Irish strengths.

"If we were playing this weekend, the majority of the starting XV would come from Wales and Ireland, with two players from England and one from Scotland," he added.

O'Driscoll, Ireland's first Lions captain since 1983, said: "It is a tremendous honour to be asked to be Lions captain and lead a squad of so many great players.

"When you look at the list of past Lions captains that include the likes of Martin Johnson and Willie John McBride, it is humbling. But I am relishing the challenge, and I will give it everything I have."

The Lions leave for New Zealand on May 25, with the first Test against New Zealand scheduled for Christchurch a month later.

British and Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand this summer:

Backs: I Balshaw (England and Leeds), G Murphy (Ireland and Leinster), J Robinson (England and Sale Sharks), G Thomas (Wales and Toulouse), S Williams (Wales and Neath-Swansea Ospreys), J Lewsey (England and Wasps), S Horgan (Ireland and Leinster), D Hickie (Ireland and Leinster), T Shanklin (Wales and Cardiff Blues), B O'Driscoll (Ireland and Leinster, capt), G Henson (Wales and Neath-Swansea Ospreys), O Smith (England and Leicester), G D'Arcy (Ireland and Leinster), W Greenwood (England and Harlequins), S Jones (Wales and Clermont Auvergne), R O'Gara (Ireland and Munster), C Hodgson (England and Sale Sharks), M Dawson (England and Wasps), D Peel (Wales and Llanelli Scarlets), G Cooper (Wales and Newport Gwent Dragons), C Cusiter (Scotland and Borders).

Forwards: G Rowntree (England and Leicester), A Sheridan (England and Sale Sharks), M Stevens (England and Bath), G Jenkins (Wales and Cardiff Blues), J White (England and Leicester), J Hayes (Ireland and Munster), G Bulloch (Scotland and Glasgow), S Thompson (England and Northampton), A Titterrell (England and Sale Sharks), S Byrne (Ireland and Leinster), D Grewcock (England and Bath), B Kay (England and Leicester), M O'Kelly (Ireland and Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Ireland and Munster), P O'Connell (Ireland and Munster), M Owen (Wales and Newport Gwent Dragons), R Hill (England and Saracens), N Back (England and Leicester), M Williams (Wales and Cardiff Blues), L Moody (England and Leicester), S Taylor (Scotland and Edinburgh), M Corry (England and Leicester), L Dallaglio (England and Wasps).


June 4  v Bay of Plenty in Rotorua, June 8  v Taranaki in New Plymouth, June 11 v New Zealand Maori in Hamilton, June 15 v Wellington in Wellington, June 18 v Otago in Dunedin, June 21 v Southland in Invercargill, June 25 v New Zealand in Christchurch, June 28 v Manawatu in Palmerston North, July 2  v New Zealand in Wellington, July 5  v Auckland in Auckland, July 9  v New Zealand in Auckland.