Ever since Kiwi Warren Gatland was announced as the latest British and Irish Lions head coach in Scotland last week, there has been plenty of discussion over who will captain the touring party in 2017. However, very little of that debate has been about Owen Farrell, who may well be a dark horse for the role.
Due to the very competitive selection that exists when picking from the four nations, there is always the problem that the player who possesses the best leadership qualities may not be the best player in their respective position and, therefore, should not start.
Greg Laidlaw, for instance, seems like he may not make the plane as scrum half looks set to be one of the most competitive positions, with five or six other players having strong credentials for inclusion.
Sam Warburton, the previous Lions captain of the 2013 tour, would seem a safer bet to make the trip but won’t start if Gatland selects on form, which he needs to in order to seriously challenge the current world champions.
Rory Best also seems set to be making the plane but not the match 23 as the two English hookers, Jamie George and Dylan Hartley, are currently out playing him on domestic and international form respectively.
Hartley, arguably, is England’s second best hooker too and if it was not for his captaincy he would be on the bench, replaced by George. The latter has proved himself a creative and skilful player, both as an international substitute and with Saracens. This creativeness may be favoured over the bullishness of Hartley in order to outplay New Zealand at their own free flowing style.
Another consideration is Maro Itoje. The lock forward is being talked about chiefly because he can guarantee a starting place if he keeps up his current form. However, with his inexperience at international level – he will have less than 20 international caps by the time it gets to the tour – he may be too much of a gamble.
Wales’ Alan Wyn Jones has also frequently been talked about as a possible captain but, at best, I can only see him on the bench and, at worst, still in the squad but missing out on the three big tests to an all-England partnership of Itoje and George Kruis, and possibly Devin Toner or Joe Launchbury beating him to being a replacement.
All of which brings us to Owen Farrell.
Like Itoje, his current form should guarantee him a starting spot. Johnny Sexton is struggling for fitness, and therefore form, while Farrell outshines George Ford defensively and Dan Biggar doesn’t seem to have the creativeness of the English pair.
Farrell will have over 50 international caps by the start of the tour next summer. He played a part in the successful 2013 tour and has shown leadership as one of England’s vice captains whenever Hartley has been substituted.
He may not be an obvious choice, but the 24-year-old definitely deserves to be seriously considered as a possible contender.
Max Edgington, Pundit Arena
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