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Farrell backs Captain Fantastic to lead the Lions

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Published 26/11/2016

Very best: Andy Farrell feels Rory Best is one of world’s top players
Very best: Andy Farrell feels Rory Best is one of world’s top players

Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell believes Rory Best has the credentials needed to captain the Lions in New Zealand this summer.

The former England international, who is the favourite to be named as Warren Gatland's assistant for a second successive tour when the Lions coach names his back-room team on Wednesday.

Farrell backs calm Best to lead Lions ahead of his show-down with fellow centurion Moore on landmark 100th capweek, spoke glowingly about the Ulster hooker who wins his 100th cap for his country today.

Best's only Lions experience was a gruelling one as he was left out of the 2013 touring party and was called up as a late replacement for the suspended Dylan Hartley.

He endured a crisis of confidence on tour, playing four non-Test matches and missing out on selection for the series win over today's opponents Australia.

The 34-year-old faces competition from Hartley, Alun-Wyn Jones and Sam Warburton for the role but is in a strong position having led his side to victory over next June's opponents New Zealand this month.

Ireland were the only Lions-contributors who faced the world champion All Blacks and their win in Chicago and subsequent Dublin battle will have enhanced many claims for selection.

And Farrell believes Best has done himself no harm whatsoever. Farrell's backing certainly carries weight given the former dual-code international is all-but inked in as part of Gatland's Lions coaching staff.

"There's no doubt that he's a contender when he's doing as good a job as he is for his national team and his national team is doing pretty well. He's a big part of that so he has to be right up there doesn't he?" he said.

"It's just what he's been through. As a player, the ups and downs of international rugby and when you've got 100 caps you've certainly been through a hell of a lot.

"Your experience of how you deal not just with your own game and the players around you for the feel of the game in the white-hot heat of the moment is priceless.

"That's what I've been super impressed with, not only is he laying his body on the line but his decision-making and his calmness under pressure in the big games that we've been in, certainly since I've been here in the last six months, has been fantastic to watch.

"That's proper leadership, that's what that is, so anyone who has that skill or that trait has to be up there."

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