Graham Rowntree said he's already getting "wound up" just thinking about the summer battle with the All Blacks, as he talked up the "warriors" in the Lions forward division.

Rowntree singled out Tadgh Furlong and Jack McGrath for special praise as he looked towards honing an "exceptional group of forwards" for the summer mission.

Warren Gatland revealed his 41-man squad for the looming tour on Wednesday lunchtime, with Rory Best, Iain Henderson, Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony, Furlong and McGrath all getting the nod.

Passionate forwards coach Rowntree can't wait to get his hands on them.

"We've picked players who are tough competitors; guys who are warriors, who can perform under pressure, bring their best game under pressure," he told RTÉ Sport.

"Just saying all this gets me wound up!

"I've not worked with a better group of players before, in terms of Lions.

"That group of forwards we've assembled is exceptional.

"I'm looking forward to working with the Irish props in particular; I've not worked with them before.

"I was really impressed with Tadgh Furlong in the Six Nations. He quietly goes about his business; he's an exceptional scrummager, but he gets his hands on the ball higher than many other tighthead props.

"I've been a fan of Jack McGrath for a long time. I'm really looking forward to working with those two in particular."

The Lions begin their Kiwi odyssey with a 3 June clash against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei, squaring up to the All Blacks for the opening Test at Eden Park three weeks later.


Rowntree expects every single step of the journey to be hard-earned.

"The beauty of this tour, and the beast of this tour, is that the provincial games are going to be harder than we've had for a very long time," he said

"We're going to find out a lot about people in those early weeks, just from training and playing. Heaven knows what bolters will come through for the Test series.

"We need people who can play. We need good set-piece exponents, because New Zealand have a very good set-piece; one of the best lineouts in the world.

"We need guys who can perform at the set-piece but who can play as well, who can defend, who have a high game output. All of these guys tick those boxes.

"There's a nice balance there of experience, there's some young bucks, some people who haven't even started for their country, but they all bring something to the game.

"We've not finalised any thoughts around selection in terms of the Tests or any of that. We'll see what happens when we all get on deck in New Zealand."



Dan Biggar, Elliot Daly, Jonathan Davies, Owen Farrell, Leigh Halfpenny, Robbie Henshaw, Stuart Hogg, Jonathan Joseph, Conor Murray, George North, Jack Nowell, Jared Payne, Jonathan Sexton, Tommy Seymour, Ben Te'o, Anthony Watson, Rhys Webb, Liam Williams, Ben Youngs


Rory Best, Dan Cole, Taulupe Faletau, Tadhg Furlong, Jamie George, Iain Henderson, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Jack McGrath, Ross Moriarty, Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony, Ken Owens, Kyle Sinckler, CJ Stander, Justin Tipuric, Mako Vunipola, Billy Vunipola, Sam Warburton.

Lions itinerary (all kick-offs 8.35am Irish time)

Sat, June 3 - New Zealand Provincial Barbarians (Toll Stadium, Whangarei)
Wed, June 7 - Blues (Eden Park, Auckland)
Sat, June 10 - Crusaders (AMI Stadium, Christchurch)
Tue, June 13 - Highlanders (Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin)
Sat, June 17 - Maori All Blacks (Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua)
Tue, June 20 - Chiefs (Waikato Stadium, Hamilton)
Sat, June 24 - NEW ZEALAND (Eden Park, Auckland)
Tue, June 27 - Hurricanes (Westpac Stadium, Wellington)
Sat, July 1 - NEW ZEALAND (Westpac Stadium, Wellington)
Sat, July 8 - NEW ZEALAND (Eden Park, Auckland)