Sam Warburton has been named Wales captain for autumn Tests
Sam Warburton will captain Wales in this season's autumn series of Tests.
And confirming Warburton's role for November appointments with Australia, Argentina, Japan and South Africa, interim Wales head coach Rob Howley also underlined the 27-year-old's British and Irish Lions captaincy credentials.
Cardiff Blues flanker Warburton, who has led Wales more than any other player, skippered the Lions on their Test series-winning tour to Australia in 2013, and is sure to be a leading candidate for next summer's New Zealand trip.
"Sam Warburton is a great captain," said Howley, who is in charge of Wales throughout this season while Lions head coach Warren Gatland concentrates on plotting the All Blacks' downfall.
"He captained the Lions, he will continue to captain Wales. I have spoken to Sam already, and he will captain us for the autumn series and into the Six Nations.
"I believe at this moment in time that Sam Warburton is the best captain to take us forward.
"He has, of course, done it (led the Lions) once, and I am sure he is in other people's thoughts to captain again, but the challenge for all players will be the autumn series and the Six Nations."
England skipper Dylan Hartley is another strong Lions leadership contender, given his team's run of nine successive victories under head coach Eddie Jones that included a Six Nations Grand Slam and 3-0 Test series triumph against Australia Down Under.
And Howley fully acknowledges how much England have impressed since Australian Jones took the reins last December.
"It's a challenge for ourselves, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy," Howley added. "Eddie Jones has come in and they have played nine, won nine.
"As Eddie said, he mentioned in a quote that England should win (or challenge for) the (Six Nations) championship every year, so it's for all of us to do something about it and make sure we challenge that area.
"It was great to see their three Tests over in Australia. They've got their house in order under Eddie, and it is something we look forward to. It's at the Principality Stadium (Wales' Six Nations clash against England on February 11), and it's a date in the calendar."
Howley, who has been part of Gatland's coaching support staff since 2008, will have full responsibility for Wales this term.
He previously did the job in 2012-13 - again due to Gatland's Lions commitments - and after losing five successive games, including all four autumn fixtures, Wales recovered to be crowned Six Nations champions.
Gatland will leave his Wales role after the 2019 World Cup in Japan, but Howley added: "I don't see it as an audition.
"I really enjoyed my experiences back in 2012-13. I think we have got a really good coaching set-up, and it's important we drive standards, drive excellence.
"Warren is still looking at the bigger picture in terms of our (player) National Dual Contracts, but the day to day running of the team and the decision-making within the national squad will be done by myself.
"Autumn 2012 was a huge learning experience for me as a head coach. Because Warren came back for the Australia and New Zealand games, that period was difficult with messages going back and fore between us. There was a lot of energy wasted, a lot of communication.
"We need to become better as a team, and if we can become better, we will be a difficult team to beat over the next 10 months.
"We are trying to evolve the game, and I think you have seen that in the last 12 months. We were top try-scorers in the Six Nations last season, then we went to New Zealand and scored five tries in two Tests.
"The challenge is about coming back to that capacity and intensity to be able to match the likes of New Zealand.
"To win modern games now, you need to score 26-28 points. If you are scoring three tries per game, you are in the ball-park.
"Discipline is also a huge part of international rugby, and the key to discipline is to stop sides getting into your 22, because teams are now so clinical and ruthless when they get into the 22."