British & Irish Lions
Woodward backs Warburton for Lions captaincy
March 20, 2013
Wales flanker Sam Warburton returned to top form in the recent Six Nations © PA Photos
Former England and British & Irish Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward has backed Wales' Sam Warburton to lead the elite tourists to Australia later this year.
Warburton recently lost the Wales captaincy but a strong run of form since returning from injury appears to have bolstered his chances of being named the Lions' skipper next month when coach Warren Gatland names his squad for the trip Down Under. But Warburton faces stiff competition with England captain Chris Robshaw and Ireland centre Brian O'Driscoll among those vying for the honour while former England captain Martin Johnson recently tipped Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones as a possible skipper.
But Woodward is in no doubt that Warburton is the leading candidate. "He would be favourite for me," he told Sky Sports News. "The Lions captain has to be an automatic choice - you can't have a captain who any players question should be in the team. I think Warburton is back to his best."
However, Gatland is more concerned about getting the right mix of players in his squad than naming the man who will lead them. "There is a huge amount made of the captaincy," said Gatland. "Everyone has their opinion but we have to make the right decision. We won't be rushed into it, we will take our time. We've six/seven weeks before we name the squad. Whoever we will select I am sure they will do a great job. We get the squad first and then decide after that."
Gatland stressed that any potential captain will need to be sure of his place in the Test side but can rest assured that he will have the support of a largely experienced squad. He said: "I think it is crucial we get the captaincy right. We just want to make sure we take our time and not commit ourselves to anyone at the moment.
"The number one thing is looking for someone who is going to be on the starting 15 and someone who carries themselves well on and off the field, is a good professional and has the respect of everyone. Whoever that person is we are confident there will be enough leadership qualities in the squad that that person is going to get huge support."
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