Sam Warburton was appointed as captain of the British and Irish Lions on Tuesday and will be joined by 14 other Welshman for the tour of Australia starting in June.
There was no place in the 37-man squad for former England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson, who has been in superb recent form for Toulon, or England captain Chris Robshaw, while Ireland hooker Rory Best, tipped by many as a possible captain, was also a high-profile omission.
However, former England prop Matt Stevens will come out of international retirement as one of six props and is the biggest surprise in Warren Gatland's party, which was kept under wraps until the squad announcement in London.
"Warren told me a week ago on Sunday - it's the hardest secret I've ever had to keep"
Lions captain Sam Warbuton
Stevens quit test rugby last year, having only returned to rugby in 2011 after serving a two-year ban for drug use.
There are 10 Englishmen in total, nine Irishmen - including former Lions captains Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell - and three Scots, including New Zealand-born winger Sean Maitland who made his test debut only in February.
Wales flanker Dan Lydiate and Ireland wing Tommy Bowe were included despite only recently returning from long-term injury.
Warburton relinquished the Wales captaincy during the recent Six Nations because of a mixture of injury and the form of fellow flanker Ryan Jones but was given the armband by Gatland, who is also the Wales coach, for the biggest honor in northern hemisphere rugby. Warburton is the first Welsh captain of the Lions since 1977.
"Warren told me a week ago on Sunday - it's the hardest secret I've ever had to keep,'' the 24-year-old Warburton said.
"It's unbelievable, an accolade few people are able to achieve."
Quality players out
Gatland said he chose Warburton because 'if we named the test side tomorrow, at this stage Sam would be one of the names in the starting XV.'
Wilkinson had played down his chances of a Lions call-up, despite being arguably the form flyhalf in Europe after guiding Toulon into the final of the European Cup at the weekend. Gatland has instead named just two No. 10s, Owen Farrell and Jonathan Sexton, and there was no obvious backup flyhalf elsewhere in the squad.
"Some real quality players have missed out," Gatland said.
"We had a thorough process and it's been tough.
"If you look at previous tours, six to eight players get injured and there will be a group of backup players who can be called upon."
The Lions tour begins on June 1 with a match against the Barbarians in Hong Kong. The first of three tests over consecutive weekends is played in Brisbane on June 22.
The tourists haven't won a series since beating South Africa in 1997. They last beat Australia in a series in 1989.
Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Robert Kearney (Ireland)
Tommy Bowe (Ireland), Alex Cuthbert (Wales), Sean Maitland (Scotland), George North (Wales)
Jonathan Davies (Wales), Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland), Jamie Roberts (Wales), Manu Tuilagi (England)
Owen Farrell (England), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
Conor Murray (Ireland), Mike Phillips (Wales), Ben Youngs (England)
Toby Faletau (Wales), Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)
Tom Croft (England), Dan Lydiate (Wales), Sean O'Brien (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Sam Warburton (Wales, captain)
Ian Evans (Wales), Richie Gray (Scotland), Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales), Paul O'Connell (Ireland), Geoff Parling (England)
Dan Cole (England), Cian Healy (Ireland), Gethin Jenkins (Wales), Adam Jones (Wales), Matt Stevens (England), Mako Vunipola (England)
Dylan Hartley (England), Richard Hibbard (Wales), Tom Youngs (England)