Sam Warburton will captain the British and Irish Lions on the summer tour to Australia after coach Warren Gatland revealed his 37-man squad.

Warburton is one of 15 players from Wales, who won the 2013 Six Nations, included but Ireland's Rory Best and England skipper Chris Robshaw lead a group of high-profile omissions.

Jonny Wilkinson is also left out, despite scoring 24 points for Toulon in their Heineken Cup semi-final win over Saracens, with England's Owen Farrell and Jonathan Sexton selected at fly-half.

Warren Gatland
The Lions face Australia in the first test on 22 June.

"For the last two or three years, he has been the most successful captain in the northern hemisphere," Gatland said of Warburton.

"It's a fantastically strong squad but if I think about naming the team tomorrow, Sam would be one of the players in there. He leads from the front.

"We spent a long time selecting this squad and there were some close calls with a lot of competition for places. But ultimately we chose the players who will give us the best chance of a Test series victory. A Lions Tour to Australia only comes around once every 12 years and we believe we have the right balance in the squad to be successful.

"We have a tremendous challenge in front of us but I know the players will be dedicated to the adventure and task ahead."

Warburton said: "Being selected as a British & Irish Lions tourist is itself a huge honour and something that I, like all players, have dreamed about. To be asked to lead the Tour as captain to Australia is unbelievable and I am very, very honored to be asked.

"It is a proud honour for me, Cardiff Blues and Wales, and to follow in the steps of former Welsh Lions' captains such as John Dawes and Phil Bennett is amazing. As the latest custodian I will endeavor to do the very best job I can.

"The Tour to Hong Kong and Australia will be a huge challenge against one of the top three teams in the world. However, I am confident that we have the ambition, talent and attitude to mount a serious challenge against the Wallabies on their home soil and return victorious."

Scotland's Sean Maitland and England props Matt Stevens, who retired from international rugby last year, and Mako Vunipola represent the surprise inclusions in the 37-man squad.

The Lions begin their tour in Hong Kong against the Barbarians on 1 June, before taking on Western Force, Queensland Reds, a combinated New South-Wales Queensland XV, New South Wales Waratahs and Act Brummies across a two-and-a-half week warm-up schedule ahead of the first test against Australia at Suncorp on 22 June.

A final warm-up game against Melbourne follows before the second test on 29 June at the Etihad Stadium ahead of the third and final test on 6 July at the ANZ Stadium.

After a 2-1 defeat to Australia during the last tour in 2001, Gatland leads a Lions side looking for a first tour win since 1997 against South Africa.

British and Irish Lions squad:

Backs: Lee Halfpenny, Stuart Hogg, Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Alex Cuthbert, Sean Maitland, George North, Jonathan Davies, Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Mike Phillips, Ben Youngs

Forwards: Dan Cole, Cian Healy, Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Matt Stevens, Mako Vunipola, Dylan Hartley, Richard Hibbard, Tom Youngs, Ian Evans, Ritchie Gray, Alun Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell, Geoff Parling, Tom Croft, Toby Faletau, Jamie Heaslip, Dan Lydiate, Sean O'Brien, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton