Sam Warburton believes England’s Maro Itoje should captain the British and Irish Lions on their tour to South Africa this summer.
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones is currently the bookies’ favourite to lead the Lions against the Springboks, but Warburton believes Itoje would be a better fit for the role of captain.
Former Wales and Lions captain Warburton was speaking at the launch of the Lions test jersey and explained why he believes Itoje is the right man for the job.
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) April 21, 2021
Sam Warburton on who should be Lions captain.
“I’ve gone back and forth, but I’ll go with who I thought at the very beginning and that’s Maro Itoje,” Warburton said.
“Anybody who looked at the first game (v Scotland) where he conceded four or five penalties would say ‘Oh you can’t do that’ – that’s a bit of rustiness.
“Warren [Gatland] will want him primed and ready to go as he’s one of the players who will be guaranteed Test starter. I was extremely impressed with him in 2017, and Warren would have seen all that.
“With his age, 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.
“I’ve gone back and forth with him and Alun Wyn Jones. Alun Wyn will be up there and I’m sure will captain games on tour, but I would probably go with Maro Itoje.”
‘Itoje is the only lock that is guaranteed to start.’
While Jones has been in fantastic form for his country in recent times, Warburton is not convinced that his former Wales teammate will start for the Lions in their tests against the Springboks.
Warburton believes that Itoje is the only lock that is guaranteed to start for the Lions, while Jones and Ireland’s James Ryan will compete to partner the English man in the second row.
“The reason I say Maro as captain is because I think he is a dead cert and it’s between Alun Wyn and James Ryan to battle it out for that number five shirt,” Warburton explained.
“Warren knows the pressure on captain if they are not a guaranteed starter. I think there are six bankers to start a test match, Tadgh Furlong, Maro Itoje, Taulupe Faletau, Tom Curry, Anthony Watson and Stuart Hogg who has leadership experience.
“I don’t think he will pick a back as captain so the other player who has leadership experience or will want it I think is Maro. If Alun Wyn is captain though you know you will be in safe hands.”