The British and Irish Lions will head to New Zealand later this year looking to win back-to-back series in the southern hemisphere for the first time since the 1970s.
Four years after a sensational 2-1 series victory over Australia, the Lions will now take on the All Blacks over three tests in what looks to be an enthralling tour of New Zealand.
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Warren Gatland, who has been appointed as the Lions head coach for the second time after guiding the team to their first series win since 1997, has a number of decisions to make, not least who to appoint as this squad’s captain for the tour.
There is certainly no shortage of options for Gatland, and the New Zealand-born coach will have plenty to ponder as to which man wears the armband this summer.
While many will expect a Welshman to be given the position due to Gatland’s ongoing role as Wales’ head coach, but that is by no means a given and there are range of options that tick different boxes the Lions would want from their skipper.
From a motivational figure to a star player or a guaranteed starter, there are a number of different factors Gatland needs to consider ahead of a tour the Lions will start priced at around 7/2 with the likes of bet365 to win as the team return to New Zealand after a 12-year absence.
Sam Warburton: One of Gatland’s most trusted players, Warburton is known as being one of the best captains in world rugby. While there have often been better players than him in his position, Warburton’s leadership skills have made him a key part of Wales’ success over the past decade. The flanker led the Lions in their winning 2013 tour of Australia, and the 28-year-old is definitely a contender this year.
Dylan Hartley: Leading England to the Six Nations crown and a record-equalling 18th Test victory in a row, Hartley has to be considered for the Lions captaincy this year. While the England hooker still has a major question mark next to his name when it comes to discipline, the Northampton front rower has done more than enough during the Six Nations to put his name in the hat.
Alun Wyn Jones: Leading the Lions to victory in the crucial third test against Australia four years ago in Warburton’s absence, the Welsh second row is potentially the leading candidate in the race to be named Lions skipper. Jones recently replaced Warburton as Wales’ captain and while the Six Nations didn’t go as planned, the forward has done his case for the Lions’ captaincy no harm.
Rory Best: Having led Ireland to victory over New Zealand, Australia and South Africa at the end of 2016, Best has shown himself to be a great captain on the international stage. While there is little denying the motivational skills Best brings to a team, there is a doubt as to whether or not the Irish hooker will be first or even second choice in his position if he makes it on the plane to New Zealand in a few months.