Sam Warburton believes that Maro Itoje has advantage over Alun wyn jones in the race to become the captain of the British & Irish Lions for the summer tour of South Africa.
Saracens’ second row was one of England’s best players in a poor Six Nations, but his high penalty count seemed to dampen his chances of being chosen for the role by Warren Gatland.
But Warburton, captain of the Lions in 2017 and 2019, doesn’t see that as an obstacle for a player who stood out in New Zealand four years ago and offers more than the talisman of Wales, Alun Wyn Jones.
“I’ve been going from one place to another, but I will go with who I thought at the beginning and that is Maro Itoje,” Warburton said.
“Anyone looking at the first Six Nations game against Scotland where they conceded four or five penalties would say ‘oh, you can’t do that,’ but that was a little rusty.
“Warren will want him primed and ready to play as he is one of the players who will be a guaranteed starter on the tour. I was really impressed in 2017 and Warren would have seen all of that too.
“The other candidates for captaincy are a bit older. You wonder if it would be too much pressure for them to go through a tour like this at the end of the season.
“I’ve come and gone with him and Alun Wyn Jones. Alun Wyn will be there and I am sure he will be the captain of the matches on the tour, but he would probably go with Maro Itoje.
“The reason I say that Maro is the captain is because I think he is an accurate and it is between Alun Wyn and James Ryan to fight for the number five jersey.
“Warren knows the pressure on the captain if he is not a guaranteed starter and I think there are six options to start a test: Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Taulupe Faletau, Tom Curry, Anthony Watson and Stuart Hogg.
“I don’t think he will pick a running back as captain, so the other player who has the leadership experience that he will want is Maro. However, if Alun Wyn is the captain, he will know that he will be in good hands. “