Lions captain Warburton heads UK sports honours list


London (AFP)

British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton topped the sporting stars who featured in Britain's traditional New Year Honours list announced late on Friday.

The 29-year-old captained the Lions in a 1-1 series draw with rugby union world champions New Zealand in June and July, having also skippered the Lions in their 2-1 series win over Australia in 2013.

He received the Order of the British Empire (OBE), and his award will come as a welcome fillip with the Welsh back row forward recovering from neck surgery.

England's women's cricket World Cup-winning team were also recognised, including captain Heather Knight, who like Warburton was awarded an OBE.

The 27-year-old confessed to being "blown away" by the "massive honour".

"When I was a young girl playing cricket for my brother's team in Plymouth, I couldn't have imagined that one day I would get an honour for captaining my country to a successful World Cup," said Knight, whose team beat India in the final at Lord's.

"It just shows what's possible, and hopefully young girls pursuing sport today will see that it can take you places."

Coach Mark Robinson also picked up an OBE while two other players, Anya Shrubsole and Tammy Beaumont, were made Members of the British Empire (MBE).

Warburton was not the only rugby personality to pick up an award as legendary Scotland prop Ian McLauchlan was awarded an OBE.

Now 75, McLauchlan, known as 'Mighty Mouse', is regarded as one of the finest props of all time, earning eight Lions caps and 43 for his country. He captained Scotland 19 times.

Iconic 67-year-old horse racing trainer Nicky Henderson -- fresh from his Mighty Bite winning the prestigious King George VI steeplechase on Tuesday -- was made a Royal Victorian Order Lieutenant (LVO).

Recipients of Britain's famous honours system are chosen twice a year, on the Queen's birthday and ahead of the new year.

Anybody can nominate someone for one of the various accolades, which range from peerages to knighthoods and CBEs honouring national or regional roles, to OBEs and MBEs aimed at more local achievements.