Warren Gatland currently has plenty on his plate selecting his Lions team and planning an operationally challenging campaign against the world champions, but I would suggest that choosing the tour captain is not one of the problems with sleep loss. cause.
I am thinking of two excellent candidates, Alun Wyn Jones and Maro Itoje. Of the two, I would no doubt opt for the Skipper of Wales – who says everything about Jones, as there is no bigger fan of Maro than I am.
When choosing the Lions captain, you pay attention to a number of qualities, possibly a checklist in descending order of importance. It is a simple yet effective method in my opinion.
Warren Gatland has two outstanding candidates to captain Lions in South Africa
Alun Wyn Jones has collected 148 caps for Wales and is a veteran of three tours with the Lions
Maro Itoje has shown himself to be a leader for both Saracens and England despite his age
1 This is the most important thing. You have to be an automatic starter on the testing team and there are actually very few such individuals. There were those who doubted Jones in the fall, but he was a rejuvenated figure in the Six Nations, one of the best forwards in the tournament. If he takes that form in the Lions series, he will be one of the first names on the team sheet.
Itoje also falls into that category for me. He was not always at his best in the Six Nations and has started to attract the attention of referees and take up penalties.
But can I imagine the lions beating South Africa without the Saracens in their boiler house? Not really.
Jones 1 Itoje 1
2 Ideally, a Lions captain should already be a club and / or land skipper. It’s a huge job, it hits you from all angles, and you’re likely to be captain of other established captains. Above all, you need experience to know how to manage a referee.
That was evident at the end of the 2017 series when Sam Warburton somehow persuaded Romain Poite to rethink his original sentencing decision against Ken Owens on death. Five or six years of skipping in Wales at the highest level and winning the trust and respect of referees around the world culminated in Warburton being allowed to intervene and successfully plead the cause of the Lions.
Jones has that experience with buckets, Itoje does not. Itoje is a leader on the field and I have no doubt he will one day be England captain, but for now Jones is trumping him in this regard.
Jones 2 Itoje 1
Sam Warburton had the experience of knowing how to manage a referee on the Lions tour
3 Your Lions captain must be a proven decision-maker in the heat of battle. When to kick to touch, when to go for goal, tap and go, when to go for broke, when it’s time to knuckle and just get through the next two minutes. Jones was there and got the T-shirt and my instinct, my point as a coach, would be that Itoje has too.
Jones 3 Itoje 2
4 You must also be able to delegate. Many lion sailors have been attackers who tend to be buried at the bottom of rucks and mauls. Therefore, they must be able to work closely with trusted lieutenants on the field who can make decisions for the team while the skipper takes to the skies.
In particular, the captain should be in tune with his scrum half who makes those instant tap-and-go decisions and also does much of the referee management. Again Jones is proven, but I strongly suspect that Maro shares this quality.
Jones 4 Itoje 3
5 Lions skippers must have the full respect of their peers on and off the field and in general, as a Lions tour is a global event on the rugby calendar and is followed by fans from every country. Everything you say and do is covered by the media. Both score the same.
Jones 5 Itoje 4
I have direct, personal ‘on tour’ experience with four Lions skippers. My first captain on the 1980 Lions tour of South Africa was Bill Beaumont and he was a brilliant skipper. At his peak as a player, he was an automatic first choice at lock forward, loved and respected by everyone. Bill led a happy albeit injury-ridden tour and although we lost 3-1, he couldn’t have done more.
Three years later Irish Ciaran Fitzgerald was a lovable, hard-working man, but while he was a decent Test whore, he wasn’t in the same league as Colin Deans on tour – or Peter Wheeler, who had been overlooked for the trip to New Zealand. It made life difficult. The Lions didn’t want to drop Fitzie, the media didn’t want the story to die, and the Irish contingent on tour understandably got a little protective of their national skipper.
Irish great Brian O’Driscoll ticked all the boxes to be a highly successful Lions captain
In 2005 it was Brian O’Driscoll who ticked all my five boxes and I am still disappointed with BOD that he was denied the opportunity to show what a great Lions captain he could have been by the infamous Umaga / Mealamu spear equipment.
I have no doubt that Brian would have taken on the challenge as a player and skipper had he been allowed to play a full part.
When Brian got injured, I turned to Gareth Thomas from Wales, who was a revelation to me in the way he kept the team’s enthusiasm in the toughest of circumstances. We couldn’t turn the tide of All Blacks, but I was left with immense respect for Gareth and a moving letter he wrote me after the tour is one of the few rugby memories I’ve kept.