With the days counting down until Warren Gatland names his full squad for the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand, speculation has continued to rage as to what the coach’s plans are.
That extends not just to the personnel of the squad, but also to the man that will be leading the side out in the tests against the All Blacks.
The Lions captaincy has been the subject of fierce debate for some time now, and while Ireland’s Rory Best and Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones had seemingly been the two main favourites, the latest bookmaker odds have made Jones’ teammate Sam Warburton the strongest contender (by some distance) to be given the honour.
Having stepped down as Wales captain before the Six Nations, many believed that Warburton had sacrificed his chance of captaining the Lions as he had done in Australia four years ago. However, doubts about Jones’ ability to lead Wales during the campaign (coupled with his shoulder injury) look to have scuppered his chances of being given the proverbial armband, and has seemingly given the Cardiff flanker a way back in.
(It should, however, be stressed that bookmakers’ odds are not necessarily a guarantee of anything – though Warburton’s odds in comparison to the rest of the frontrunners appears ominous.)
The latest betting movement could also spell trouble for Best, who has slipped to fifth favourite in the market, though he remains the highest-placed Irish player.
Interestingly, Owen Farrell is now the second favourite to be given the captaincy. Gatland’s assertion that the 25-year-old was now in the mix to be made the skipper (as he did with Warburton) have shifted the market favourably in the versatile back’s favour.
Dylan Hartley, meanwhile, although fourth favourite in the odds is likely to see his disciplinary record go against him when the final decision is made.
All is likely to be revealed when Gatland names his squad for the tour next month.