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Warren Gatland explains why he opted against making Owen Farrell Lions captain

Warren Gatland Owen Farrell

‘I didn’t want other players to see some potential negativity that we didn’t need.’

Warren Gatland has revealed that he decided against naming Owen Farrell as British and Irish Lions captain as he was concerned about the external negativity it might bring.

After Alun Wyn Jones pulled out of the tour due to a dislocated shoulder, before making a remarkable comeback, Gatland named Conor Murray as a surprise Lions captain, ahead of England captain Farrell and Scotland captain Stuart Hogg.

Gatland was speaking to The Telegraph about his captaincy decision and revealed that he was afraid of the external pressure that naming Farrell, or Maro Itoje, as captain would bring on the team.

Warren Gatland on why he decided against naming Owen Farrell as captain.

“It was almost a little bit like not wanting to put those other two players [Farrell and Itoje] under external pressure that may have come their way, as much as anything,” Gatland said.

“They’re very vocal and are very much part of our leadership group. So they’ve got important roles. I know there was a lot of stuff said and it doesn’t bother Owen at all because he’s such a competitor.

“He can handle that sort of stuff and the criticism that came to him about the way he led the side, the way he played for England in the Six Nations – he is able to put that stuff behind him.

“But I felt, as a group, I didn’t want him to be exposed to it, at the moment. This is a great group of guys, even though it doesn’t bother him, and I didn’t want other players to see some potential negativity that we didn’t need as a group.”

Owen Farrell’s test chances.

While Farrell wasn’t named as Lions skipper in Jones’ absence, the Englishman could still have a vital role to play for the touring side in the weeks to come.

The England captain had a disappointing Six Nations campaign but he has played well on tour with the Lions so far, especially in the first match against the Sharks.

Farrell isn’t featuring in tonight’s game against South Africa ‘A’, but the Englishman will likely make the match-day squad for the first test against the Springboks, especially now as Finn Russell is struggling with an Achilles injury.

The Saracens player’s versatility also helps his case, as Farrell is well able to play at either fly-half or inside centre at the highest level.

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