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British and Irish Lions: Alun Wyn Jones and Stuart Hogg in line to lead Warren Gatland’s tourists in South Africa

Will Stuart Hogg or Alun Wyn Jones captain the Lions in South Africa?

Will Stuart Hogg or Alun Wyn Jones captain the Lions in South Africa?

Ahead of Warren Gatland’s British and Irish Lions squad announcement on Thursday, we take a look at a number of the gamers in competition to captain the touring facet…

Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)

Alun Wyn Jones and Gatland go far again. Jones was one of many Wales gamers inherited by Gatland on the finish of 2008 when he took over as head coach, and the second rower was nonetheless a part of the core facet that made it to the World Cup semi-final in Japan in 2019.

Jones has captained Wales on a full-time foundation for the reason that retirement of Sam Warburton in July 2018, and captained the Lions in the third Test in opposition to the Wallabies in 2013 when Warburton was dominated out by means of harm.

Wales have gained two of the three Six Nations since Jones took over the captaincy, and the 35-year-old is considered one of many nation’s most influential gamers in historical past.

Also counting in Jones’ favour is the sensation that taking part in in opposition to the Springboks means a giant ahead battle, and subsequently having a captain up entrance is seen as important. Martin Johnson led the Lions to victory in 1997, whereas in 2009 Paul O’Connell was requested to skipper the facet regardless of Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll additionally being in the group.

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Jamie Roberts instructed Sky Sports final month Alun Wyn Jones ought to captain the Lions for his or her tour of South Africa

Jamie Roberts instructed Sky Sports final month Alun Wyn Jones ought to captain the Lions for his or her tour of South Africa

All the logic factors to Jones as a strong contender, however does the captain have to be a sure Test starter? And if that’s the case, is the Welshman assured to begin when combating for locations in opposition to the likes of Maro Itoje, James Ryan and doubtlessly somebody like Tadhg Beirne?

Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

One one that disagrees with the mantra {that a} ahead has to captain the Lions in South Africa is Gareth Thomas. The former Wales skipper was given the Lions job in New Zealand in 2005 after O’Driscoll’s tour had been ended by means of harm in the primary Test.

“I’d probably go for someone like Stuart Hogg,” Thomas instructed Sky Sports News final week. “He’s constantly in form – even when he goes back and plays for Exeter he doesn’t drop his standards.

“As a full-back, folks assume that you just’re out of the sport quite a bit however the actuality is that you just’re in the sport on a regular basis since you’re watching what occurs in entrance of you and you could have this decision-making course of that is not heated.

“Stuart Hogg is one of very few people who are a probability to be on the team sheet, and has captained Scotland well – a resurgent Scotland.”

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Former Lions captain Gareth Thomas thinks this 12 months’s group ought to break custom and make a full-back captain, suggesting Scotland’s Stuart Hogg as his choose

Former Lions captain Gareth Thomas thinks this 12 months’s group ought to break custom and make a full-back captain, suggesting Scotland’s Stuart Hogg as his choose

Hogg might be nearer to being a assured Test starter than anybody else in Britain and Ireland, and as talked about by Thomas, the full-back led a Scotland facet in this 12 months’s Six Nations that beat England at Twickenham for the primary time in 38 years, and claimed a primary victory over France on French soil since 1999.

There isn’t any doubting his credentials as a participant, however will the quantity on his again depend in opposition to him when Gatland unveils his skipper?

Owen Farrell (England)

After a short interval of sharing the captaincy with Dylan Hartley, Owen Farrell took cost of the England group that went all the way in which to the World Cup closing in Japan and gained the Six Nations the next 12 months.

England’s performances in this 12 months’s event have been nowhere close to the excessive ranges of earlier Championships, and as one of many Saracens gamers who appeared rusty after not commonly taking part in in opposition to Premiership opposition, Farrell has a way to go to get again to his particular person greatest.

However, on the age of 29, he’s simply three video games wanting taking part in 100 Test matches, so he has loads of worldwide expertise, and he’s a born chief.

In the altering rooms in the wake of a pre-tour match in opposition to the Barbarians in 2013, Farrell – then simply 21 – was singled out by Paul O’Connell as one of many leaders in the group already, and O’Connell nonetheless agrees of his former Lions team-mate eight years later.

“I like Owen Farrell, he’s a real standout leader for me,” the previous Lions captain stated final month. “With matches being played without crowds, you can hear so much of what the players are saying during games. You can hear Owen barking at his own players and encouraging them.

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Former Wales and Lions prop Adam Jones says Warren Gatland is not afraid about making big selection calls with competition for places heating up

Former Wales and Lions prop Adam Jones says Warren Gatland is not afraid about making big selection calls with competition for places heating up

“When you choose a captain or leaders for the Lions tour, it is about selecting guys who’re prepared to take possession of what the plan is. Owen is a man who enjoys main and enjoys taking possession. He’s virtually teaching.”

The big question, as is the case with all the contenders, has to be whether he is guaranteed to start, and based on this year’s performances that isn’t the case with Farrell – whether or not Gatland is willing to overlook that remains to be seen.

Maro Itoje (England)

Maro Itoje was earmarked as a future England captain before he even made his debut. Tongue-in-cheek comments from Eddie Jones in 2016 that he wanted to convert the lock forward “from a Vauxhall Viva right into a BMW” before unleashing him on the international stage soon made way for regular Test game time, and five years on Itoje is every bit the leader that everyone foresaw.

The 26-year-old now has 51 caps to his name and has won all team silverware on offer to him, with the single notable exception of the World Cup.

Itjoe falls into a similar situation to Hogg in that he is close to being guaranteed to start, and like Jones he operates in the tight five.

The Saracens second row was one of England’s better performers in a poor Six Nations but his high penalty count appeared to dent his chances of being chosen for the role by Gatland.

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Maro Itoje says he is excited that the British and Irish Lions Tour of South Africa will go ahead as scheduled

Maro Itoje says he is excited that the British and Irish Lions Tour of South Africa will go ahead as scheduled

However, Warburton gave Itoje his endorsement for the role, saying: “Warren will need him primed and prepared to go as he is one of many gamers who shall be a assured Test starter. I used to be extraordinarily impressed with him in 2017 and Warren would have seen all that as nicely.

“The other captaincy candidates are a little bit older. You question whether it would be a bit too much pressure for them to go through a tour like this at the end of the season.”

Johnny Sexton (Ireland)

Johnny Sexton’s possibilities of main the Lions probably light in the wake of Ireland’s up-and-down Six Nations marketing campaign earlier this 12 months.

Andy Farrell’s facet ended in third place after losses to Wales and France have been adopted by a win over Scotland and a cushty victory over England.

While Leinster are nonetheless a power, and Sexton remains to be an important a part of their current success, he’s not the identical athlete that was topped World Rugby males’s participant of the 12 months in 2018.

There is little doubt he might do the job for Gatland if known as upon, however with Sexton turning 36 a number of weeks earlier than the primary Test in opposition to the Boks, and kind quantity 10s Dan Biggar and Finn Russell jostling for squad locations together with Farrell, Sexton nonetheless has to persuade Gatland he wants to be in the squad earlier than conversations about captaincy might happen.

If Sexton is called in the squad there isn’t any doubting he shall be one of many management figures inside the group, and with the issue of touring in a bubble there shall be added want for skilled heads to assist information the subsequent generations of Lions, however main the group out for the Test matches it probably a step too far for the Ireland talisman this 12 months.

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