Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Warburton obvious choice to lead Lions ahead of O'Driscoll

Now that the Six Nations has finished there seems to be general acceptance that Wales will provide the bulk of the touring Lions squad and all talk has turned now to who will be captain?

The two leading candidates appear to be Brian O'Driscoll and Sam Warburton. I can remember writing this article four years ago prior to the tour to South Africa and the choice seemed to be between BOD and Paul O'Connell.

The reasons in O'Connell's favour were clear. Ian McGeechan had a reputation and record for liking his captains to come from the pack.

Far more relevant was that when you go to South Africa you have got to fight physicality with physicality. O'Connell was that totemic figure who would strike an imposing figure running out onto the pitch with that lion under his arm.

Four years on there is not quite the need to make the same statement although ironically in Australia in 2001 it was another second row, Martin Johnson, who led the party.

There is no question that O'Driscoll is the only real 'icon' within the likely tourist party and would have the gravitas to be the figurehead. With his play in the last two months he is also likely to make it into that No.13 shirt.

It is vital that captain and coach have a solid working relationship. Both BOD and Warburton tick that box.

Warburton suffered a dip in form and suffered demotion, yet his comeback was emphatic and he finished the Six Nations in rude health. A year ago there appeared only one choice – the Welshman – and his return to form will be important, particularly in the absence of Australia's David Pocock.

Given that Wales will have a healthy representation it makes sense for someone who understands them to have a key role. BOD has already had his chance in New Zealand. It didn't work out but I am not one for looking back. Warburton is the man of the moment and deserves his chance.

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