It's set to be a spectacular summer of sport, with the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo across July and August, the Euros in June, and of course the British and Irish Lions' series against South Africa. Despite persistent doubts over the course of the last year, it looks as though the tour will indeed be going ahead. The question on everyone's lips is: when is the Lions squad announced?
Who is picking the squad?
Former Ireland and Wales head coach Warren Gatland is taking charge of his third consecutive Lions tour this summer. He guided the team to a test series victory over Australia in 2013 and a tied series against New Zealand in 2017. Gatland has added Leinster scrum coach Robin McBryde to his coaching staff, as well as Gregor Townsend, Steve Tandy and Neil Jenkins.
Who can be picked in the squad?
Any English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh players can be selected for the Lions squad. This is not strictly limited to internationals - so there is an (extremely) outside chance that the likes of Simon Zebo or Donnacha Ryan could be drafted in, for example.
How many players will be in the squad?
There has been no update in recent months on squad size, but an announcement from 2019 suggests that we can expect a 41-man Lions squad this summer, the same size as the 2017 squad. On the 2017 tour, there were 11 Irish players in the squad, while there were 9 selected in 2013 (2013 was a squad of 37).
When will the Lions squad be announced?
Gatland's squad is set to be announced on May 6.
Which Irish players are in contention?
It's hard to say how many Irish players will feature, especially after a mixed Six Nations campaign and a disappointing close to the season for Munster. Nonetheless, we can expect at the very least a handful of players to travel with the squad.
Right now, Robbie Henshaw, Tadhg Furlong and Tadhg Beirne seem to be the only Irish players guaranteed a spot on the plane. Those three are even being widely tipped to start the first test against the Springboks. The appointment of Leinster coach McBryde to Gatland's coaching staff might bode well for the chances of Leinster's forwards featuring in the squad - which will come as great news to the likes of James Ryan, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan.
Time will tell how many Irish players will feature, and we will soon find out when the Lions squad is announced on May 6.