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Andy Farrell backs Peter O'Mahony as Lions captain

Andy Farrell would be "more than comfortable" if Peter O'Mahony captained the British and Irish Lions in Saturday's first Test against New Zealand.

Defence coach Farrell believes the 2017 Lions will be the "easiest team to captain", as Warren Gatland's men boast so many leaders.

Sam Warburton continues to fight for full match sharpness after ankle trouble, and could still be deemed not ready to start Saturday's first Test in Auckland.

O'Mahony will start at blindside and most likely lead the Lions if tour captain Warburton fails to make the cut - and Farrell hailed the Munster skipper's credentials for that role.

Asked how he would feel if O'Mahony led the Lions against the All Blacks, Farrell replied: "I'd be more than comfortable.

"I'd be more than comfortable with a number of players being able to do that.

"To be honest, it'd be the easiest team to captain because there's so many leaders out there.

"What the guys who have captained the side so far have realised is they don't have to be vocal all the time, because there's always people that's helping them out and I think the balance has been great so far."

Jaco Peyper will officiate Saturday's first Test at Eden Park, with Farrell insisting the Lions are happy with the South African referee's approach.

Peyper came in for strong criticism for his handling of New Zealand's 21-9 victory over Ireland in Dublin on November 19.

The All Blacks powered past Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, to avenge their 40-29 defeat to Joe Schmidt's side in Chicago from November 5.

Peyper issued no more than a penalty for Sam Cane's head-high tackle on Robbie Henshaw, that put the potent centre out of the match.

And Malakai Fekitoa only received a yellow card for a rough challenge on Simon Zebo.

But Farrell insisted the Lions are completely happy with the refereeing teams appointed for the Test series.

"I think we have great officials going forward and I have no problem with that," said Farrell.

"Fair play to the All Blacks - they found a way to win (against Ireland in Dublin in November).

"People questioned their character going into that game, after the Chicago game, and that's what is great about a three-match series. Y ou don't know which team are going to turn up on Saturday, in the second Test and the third Test, and we have to be ready for it all."

Farrell echoed boss Gatland's sentiments that the Lions want officials picking up on illegal blocking lines.

Asked if the All Blacks receive special treatment from referees, Farrell said: "You can't say that. Whether they are cuter than anyone else - that has to be a plus for them.

"They know what they want to achieve and we can't get into what goes on with the referees. It's a distraction.

"We have to highlight to our players what to expect and how to overcome it.

"I think they are very smart in how they play the game.

'There are all sorts of subtle movements within the game and it's up to the officials to pick that up.

"It's clear and obvious when you see it happening in the game and we trust the officials to make the right call at the right time. It's nothing new at all but we just want a fair game."

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