There’s much debate at present about future Lions tours even occurring due to increased demands on players and domestic competition dates.
However, assuming the 2021 Lions will tour South Africa, as per recent tour cycles, who will lead them on this next venture?
Here are four candidates who toured New Zealand this summer.
4. Peter O’Mahony
Peter O’Mahony captained the Lions in their impressive win over the Maori All Blacks, becoming the first Test captain ahead of tour captain Sam Warburton. However, for the second and third Tests Warburton resumed the captaincy and took O’Mahony’s place in the lineup.
Turning 32 in 2021 will mean he will have a number of years of experience under his belt. He needs to ensure he can secure a regular spot in the Irish team and put in more displays like the one against England in this year’s Six Nations.
3. Maro Itoje
At the age of 22, Itoje has already achieved an enormous amount in his short career and will be a first choice player for many years to come. He led the England Under-20 team to the 2014 Junior World Championship and will eventually become the senior side’s captain. His athleticism, ability to steal opposition lineout ball and hunger for turnovers at the breakdown make him one of the most effective forwards in the world.
When the next tour comes around he will be in the prime of his career. He will be a first pick for the next Lions tour and they need someone who leads by his actions on the field.
2. Conor Murray
Many may not see Murray as a captaincy option. The reasoning behind him being a potential Lions captain is he plays in a key position at scrum half. This allows him to see the game close up and be someone who leads the team around the field.
Murray will be on his third tour by 2021 and should be close to the 100-Test match milestone. This recent tour shows he is one of the best in the world in his position.
1. Sam Warburton
Leading a series win in Australia in 2013 and drawing the recent series against the All Blacks makes Warburton a successful Lions skipper. There were some doubts regarding his position in the team but with two strong displays in the second and third Test, he silenced the critics. If he is to lead the Lions on a third consecutive tour his form for Wales will need to be of a high standard.
That said, there is nothing stopping him from achieving this remarkable feat. Turning 33 in 2021, this may well be his international swansong.
Who leads in 2021 will have a great responsibility to ensure that Lions tours still remain a special part of rugby. The captain has to be a strong leader to ensure all players unite to have the best possible chance of winning the series.
Carlin Crossan, Pundit Arena