Jared Payne said he was "shocked, surprised and hugely proud" after the versatile Ulster back was included in Warren Gatland's Lions squad.

Payne, along with Ulster team-mates Rory Best and Iain Henderson, will board the plane for New Zealand this summer as part of Gatland's 41-man panel.

Eleven Ireland players made the cut.

"I’m surprised," he told Ulster Rugby. "It’s a pretty big shock. You don’t get too many shocks these days but it’s definitely something that has come out of the blue for me.

"I’m hugely proud but I’m pretty surprised as well. I had a text off my Mum and Dad and my partner there and they are over the moon as you can imagine. It hasn’t really sunk in just yet.

"It’s great for Ulster and to have a few friendly faces on the trip. I think those two have work very hard over the last few years and it’s good to see them recognised."

Brian O'Driscoll has expressed his surprise at the size of Gatland's squad and the absence of Dylan Hartley, but expects plenty of changes and shake-ups before the first Test against New Zealand on 24 June.

Gatland sprang a few surprises when announcing his 41-man squad on Wednesday lunchtime - Ben Te'o, Payne and Ian Henderson make it, Hartley, Joe Launchbury and Donnacha Ryan are among those to miss out.

O'Driscoll was taken aback by Hartley's omission in particular, but said the attritional nature of the tour keeps the door open for plenty of disappointed players.

"The size of the squad is probably the biggest surprise," he told BT Sport.

"Forty-one; if you think about it, it's only three less than Clive Woodward took 12 years ago and everyone hammered him for that.

"I think you will need a squad that size and there will be other players that will be called out. 

"If you look at surprise omissions, the standout ones, well, there's probably two.

"Dylan Hartley, people talked about him as a possible Lions captain. The second one, in a very competitive second-row, not seeing Joe Launchbury in there...


"It's a long time before they even travel. Unfortunately we're going to have three, four casualties before the plane even leaves these shores to get down to New Zealand. On top of that you're probably looking at three or four injuries at least over the course of the tour.

"Expect lots of players to be added to that. I wouldn't think Joe Launchbury should put his feet up just yet."

There are 25 first-time tourists in what's a unique and special dressing-room.

O'Driscoll highlighted the importance of getting the right blend of personalities to cope with the pressure-cooker environment.

"You have to remember that some guys are being picked for obviously their talent and the manner in which they play, but also (for being) good tourists, good people as well," he added.

"That's a big, important factor as far as Warren Gatland is concerned."