Although the issue of the Lions captaincy was by no means a done deal, for many commentators Dylan Hartley was the clear and obvious front runner to inherit the role from Sam Warburton.
After all, while Warburton suffered through injury and indifferent form, Hartley led England to 13 consecutive victories, a Grand Slam and a series whitewash over Australia.
The very fact that Hartley seemed to be the leading candidate to fill the Lions number two jersey precluded Rory Best from the greater part of the captaincy debate.
However the perceived logic slowly began to shift this autumn. While Hartley struggled for form after returning from injury, Best led Ireland to victories over the All Blacks and Australia.
Consequently, by the end of the autumn series Best had forced his way into the conversation, and after Hartley lost his composure against Leinster on Friday night, the Irish hooker had moved from being a distant outsider to a firm contender to captain the Lions in New Zealand.
Indeed, Warren Gatland appears to be leaning in the direction of appointing Best as captain, after highlighting the 34 year-old’s leadership qualities in The Telegraph.
There is no doubt Rory Best has done a really good job.
He looks comfortable. We didn’t take him initially in 2013 [to Australia] because we felt his line-out throwing was not good enough. He has obviously improved enormously.
He is scrummaging well, he is experienced. He has grown into that leadership role. There is a lot to admire about Rory Best.
I go back to a couple of years ago when Ulster went over to Northampton and he gave Dylan Hartley a bit of a lesson in forward play and hooking that day. It was another level.
Although the Six Nations will ultimately prove to be the greatest test for each of the leading candidates to fill the role as captain, Best now looks to be the front runner.
This week on the Oval Office Podcast, we speak with Section Paloise number eight Paddy Butler, and hold an in depth conversation with Geraint Powell about what the future holds for regional rugby in Wales.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
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