British & Irish Lions
Gatland downplays Lions captaincy
ESPN Staff
March 24, 2013
Warren Gatland at the unveiling of the Lions coaching team, Edinburgh, Scotland, December 12, 2012
Warren Gatland says the British & Irish Lions captain might not even start against Australia © Getty Images

Warren Gatland has played down the importance of the captain's role when the British & Irish Lions head to Australia in June by revealing that the chosen player may not even be in his starting line-up.

The tourists' head coach has still not revealed exactly who is likely to lead his side, but has made it clear that getting strength and depth across the whole of his starting XV is more important than choosing the correct captain.

"I am not getting hung up about the captaincy," Gatland told The Sunday Times. "Look at the quality and depth we have in certain positions and the leaders we will have. The captain's name won't be the first we write down for any match, there are no guarantees, we just pick the best starting team. At no stage of the tour will we be choosing the captain if there is someone better in that position."

Although Gatland is keeping quiet about his potential leader for the tour he will now undoubtedly have a clearer picture of who will wear the armband following this year's Six Nations campaign. A number of players vying for the captaincy were under the spotlight during the tournament, such as England captain Chris Robshaw, Wales flanker Sam Waburton and Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll.

While the captain's position is still unfilled though, Gatland also made it clear that players involved in the latter stages of this year's French Top 14 championship are unlikely to be included as the competition clashes with the beginning of the tour. That decision could rule out the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Steffon Armitage and Andrew Sheridan.

"We would really want all the party to travel out together as one," he said. "We are not really thinking outside the box for anyone at the moment. I have carte blanche to pick who I like but you don't want to go on a Lions tour without players from each country. We would all feel a bit uncomfortable with that."

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