Brian O’Driscoll has named the man he believes to be best-placed to lead the Lions against the All Blacks this summer.
The Ireland legend is himself a former Lions captain, having been chosen to wear the proverbial armband in the 2005 tour of New Zealand before dislocating his shoulder barely five minutes into the first test having been the unfortunate recipient of a spear challenge by Tana Umaga.
As that particular series ended a New Zealand whitewash, Warren Gatland’s men will be hoping to fare much better down under this time around.
And with Sam Warburton looking more and more likely to be selected as Lions captain for the second tour running, O’Driscoll has backed the former Wales skipper as his own choice also.
Writing in his blog for Thomas Pink, official outfitter of the Lions squad, the 38-year-old four-tour veteran has been impressed by the manner in which Warburton has answered his critics and raised his game since relinquishing the Welsh captaincy ahead of the Six Nations. O’Driscoll has previously touted current Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones, as well as Ireland skipper Rory Best, as potential Lions captains but something in Warburton seems to have really stood out for him over the past couple of months:
“I believe there have been a few players throwing their hat in the ring for captaincy on the Lions tour.
“The frequently asked question is, ‘What do you want from a tour captain and a team captain?’, and I would say that ideally I want them to be one and the same.
“In a perfect world your tour captain is the first name down on your Test sheet. However if that’s not the case you need a leader that would have the ability to accept the disappointment of not being selected while still performing his role and getting the best out of the squad.
“Sam Warburton has become the bookies favourite (and rightly so in my opinion) for the title after some impressive performances over the past couple of months. With some question marks over his future in the Wales team, he answered his critics in emphatic style with a big tournament, in his less favoured position of blindside flanker.”
Warburton has looked more like being given the nod by Gartland since serious doubts were raised regarding Jones’ captaincy during the Six Nations. Indeed, so sure now are the bookmakers that the 28-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker will be made captain that betting has been suspended on him captaining the Lions, as he did in 2013, when Gatland finalises the squad next month.
O’Driscoll was speaking on behalf of Thomas Pink – Official Outfitter of the British & Irish Lions. www.pinklionrugbyclub.co.uk