Former Springboks captain Victor Matfield has dismissed criticisms of Alun Wyn Jones which suggests the Welshman is too old to captain the Lions.
Jones was named as the captain of the British and Irish Lions at the age of 35 by head coach Warren Gatland, after the Wales veteran led his country to an unlikely triumph in the Six Nations.
South Africa legend Matfield was speaking to The XV about Jones’ captaincy credentials and was adamant that form and experience, not age, should be considered when choosing a leader.
Absolute machine 🙌
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) June 14, 2021
Victor Matfield: ‘Age is not a problem.’
“I’ve read a lot and heard a lot of talk about how he’s too old, how he can’t contribute anymore because he’s 35, but that’s nonsense,” Matfield said.
“I believe that I was playing my best rugby in 2011 when I was 34. I was still playing for the Boks at 37. I remember hearing how I was past it so many times,” Matfield added.
“People kept writing me off because of my age. Age is not a problem. I watched Wales over the Six Nations and it was obvious that Alun Wyn is still a huge presence on the field.”
Matfield on the other candidates for the Lions captaincy.
Jones was the expected choice of captain before the official Lions squad announcement last month, but others such as Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell were also tipped to skipper the touring side.
While Jones is the most experienced player who will face the Springboks this summer, young Lions captains have been chosen before, such as 24-year-old Sam Warburton in 2013 and 26-year-old Brian O’Driscoll in 2005.
Itoje, who turns 27 in October, would have been slightly older than O’Driscoll was when he captained the Lions in New Zealand, but Matfield believes the Englishman would have been a poor choice of captain.
“There was a lot of talk of (Maro) Itoje getting it, but he’s not even captain of England,” Matfield said.
“How can you get in a group like this and all of a sudden you need to pull guys together when you haven’t pulled your country together?
“That’s really the most important job of a captain, more important than winning a collision or stealing a few lineouts.”