England head coach Eddie Jones thinks he already knows who British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland will name as captain for the summer tour of New Zealand.
The Australian is known for his frank judgements and unapologetic style so when he spoke to The Guardian and was asked about his thoughts on who Gatland was going to award the captaincy to, the England boss gave it straight.
“I think the captain has to be a guaranteed selection and the guy who stands out at this stage is Alun Wyn Jones. He’s a hard Test player. I don’t think it’s any coincidence he’s just been made captain of Wales.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Gatland kept it in the family. Four years ago, when the Lions toured Australia, Gatland, who is also Wales’ head coach, was criticised for what appeared to be a bias towards his Welsh players.
Given that Wales were coming off the back of a triumphant Six Nations championship however, the Kiwi could have been forgiven for naming Wales captain Sam Warburton as his Lions captain and so for including so many in the squad.
With Wales looking to bounce back from a mediocre November series, Jones’ belief that new Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones may seem a little premature.
Warburton, along with England captain Dylan Hartley and Ireland’s Rory Best have all been named as strong candidates over the last couple of months but with Warburton stepping down as Wales captain and Hartley running into disciplinary trouble again, Best was the only man left standing until this week when Wales interim-head coach Rob Howley unveiled Wyn Jones as his new captain.
For the England boss, the selection of Wyn Jones smacks of Gatland’s influence.
“Yeah, probably. The writing’s on the wall there.”
At the end of the day, Alan Wyn Jones would indeed be a strong choice for the Lions role. He is a proven warrior who excels during hard tests and in New Zealand this summer, the Lions will face the hardest tests possible against the two-time defending world champions.
There is still a Six Nations campaign to enjoy before Gatland makes his final selection for the trip south but you might well expect that should Wales and Wyn Jones have a strong championships, there will once again be a healthy Welsh contingent on the plane once again.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
In this week’s edition of The Oval Office Podcast, we speak to the Pro12 Communications Director Adam Redmond, who outlines how the league will evolve in the coming seasons.