“It is a great honour to be tour captain, but you have to play well.”
Lions head coach Warren Gatland has insisted that Alun Wyn Jones must perform well on tour to start against the Springboks.
Wales veteran Jones was named as the tour captain for the British and Irish Lions this summer, but head coach Gatland has revealed that the 35-year-old is in no way guaranteed to start in the first test against South Africa.
Gatland was speaking at the announcement of the Lions squad and revealed that he told Jones that he still needs to prove he is worthy of starting in the first test of the series.
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Warren Gatland on Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones.
“The conversation was, and this was the same with Sam Warburton on a couple of occasions, that your form has to be good enough to be selected in the test side. It is a great honour to be tour captain, but you have to play well,” Gatland explained.
While Jones will of course be expected to start for the Lions in their first test against South Africa if he manages to stay fit, Gatland does have a history of not starting his skipper.
2017 Lions captain Sam Warburton missed out on the match-day squad for the first test against the All Blacks, with Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony chosen to captain the side instead.
Warburton captained the Lions in the second and third test against New Zealand after regaining his spot in the starting team, but Gatland has certainly shown that he’s not afraid to drop his captain.
‘He has done a great job in the last few years for Wales.’
Despite playing for his country since 2006, Gatland only chose Jones as his full-time Wales captain in 2017 at the age of 31.
Jones has shown he is more than capable of shouldering the responsibilities of being captain since then, however, and has clearly proven to Gatland that he is the best man to skipper the Lions this summer.
The Lions head coach revealed that Jones actually missed his phone call to tell him that he wanted him to captain the touring side in South Africa, and only returned the call a few hours later.
“I did panic for a few hours before he rang me back! But it was a great conversation, a little bit of apprehension I think, realising the responsibility and privilege to be able to do that,” Gatland explained.
“He has done a great job in the last few years for Wales.”