JONNY Hill says his British and Irish Lions call-up is a ‘dream come true’ after being selected in Warren Gatland’s 37-man squad to tour world champions South Africa this summer.

The honour caps an unforgettable few months for the Luctonians trained youngster, writes Michael Beardmore.

Hill now plays as lock for Exeter Chiefs who won a Premiership and European double and made his Six Nations debut for England last year.

“It was a huge day for me and my family to be honest when I found out – I couldn’t believe it. I had always dreamed of doing it and it is a dream come true," said Hill.

“I got an email about a month before saying I was in contention but word spreads across the squad and across the clubs, and I think a lot of players ended up getting it.

“I think there were around 70-odd players got the email so you don’t really want to get your hopes up too much.

“I didn’t really tell too many people at the time just because I really didn’t believe that I would go so I thought ‘just lie low and see what happens’.”

Hill learned of his selection through a squad announcement on Sky Sports, smiling: “I sat down with a cup of tea and watched it, and it was a day I will never, ever, forget.

“It’s very special and nerve-wracking is undervaluing the feeling that I had.

“South Africa are the world champions and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us as a British & Irish Lions team but we’ve probably got one of the best squads ever, in my opinion.

“Warren Gatland said himself it’s the hardest squad he’s ever selected, so we’ve got the personnel to do it. It is about building relationships and working as a team as early as we can.”

After last year’s successes, Hill has endured a tough few months with England’s fifth-placed 2021 Six Nations finish and an unfamiliar feeling of currently being second in the Premiership with Exeter.

He added: “As champions at Exeter, every team is out to get us and with England it’s the exact same thing.

“I’ve learned a lot. I was disappointed with the Six Nations and with a couple of losses we’ve had at Exeter but ultimately you learn from it and we keep going and keep improving.”

Hill's selection is also a piece of history for Luctonians.

It is the first time a product of their junior sides has been selected for a Lions tour.

Hill, who plays as a lock, spent his youth at Luctonians before joining Gloucester and then current side Exeter Chiefs.