Lions in New Zealand: Brian O'Driscoll tips Sam Warburton for captaincy

Sam Warburton captained the Lions during their tour of Australia in 2013

Sam Warburton will be re-appointed British and Irish Lions captain for the tour of New Zealand, according to former Lions skipper Brian O’Driscoll.

The Wales flanker, 28, led the Lions in Australia in 2013 and is the favourite to resume the role this summer.

“Everything points to Sam Warburton,” O’Driscoll told BBC Radio 5 live’s Rugby Union Weekly Podcast.

“[Lions head coach Warren] Gatland is a big fan, he knows what sort of captain he is. He’s going to be the man.”

O’Driscoll, who toured with the Lions four times, added: “The experience of doing it once before, and how he is currently playing and the high esteem he is held in, I think they all feature heavily in him being another good selection.

O’Driscoll was captain the last time the Lions toured New Zealand in 2005

“Seven [openside flanker] is one of the more open positions, and I think Warburton will fit in brilliantly there.”

O’Driscoll feels Warburton is now best-placed to lead the touring party ahead of Wales captain in Alun Wyn Jones, who is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury.

“Sam is the kind of character that if he wasn’t selected for the Tests he wouldn’t throw the toys out of the cot,” O’Driscoll said.

“You look at that, married with Alun Wyn being out for a couple of weeks now, I don’t know if you can guarantee him a Test spot.

“I would have him in my Test team, but I don’t know if Gats feels he can guarantee him a Test spot.”

Lions in NZ (3 Jun-8 Jul)
Fixture Date Venue
v New Zealand Provincial Barbarians Saturday, 3 June Toll Stadium, Whangarai
v Blues Wednesday, 7 June Eden Park, Auckland
v Crusaders Saturday, 10 June AMI Stadium, Christchurch
v Highlanders Tuesday, 13 June Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
v Maori All Blacks Saturday, 17 June Rotorua International Stadium
v Chiefs Tuesday, 20 June FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
v All Blacks Saturday, 24 June Eden Park, Auckland
v Hurricanes Tuesday, 27 June Westpac Stadium, Wellington
v All Blacks Saturday, 1 July Westpac Stadium, Wellington
v All Blacks Saturday, 8 July Eden Park, Auckland

O’Driscoll also feels the form of Irish provinces Leinster and Munster – who have reached the Champions Cup semi-finals – could see some of their players sneak into contention.

“No-one has mentioned [Munster second row] Donnacha Ryan as a possible bolter,” he said. “He could do a brilliant job for the Lions as a midweek player.

“I wouldn’t be shocked to find him on the tour. He is the kind of guy you want in the trenches.”

O’Driscoll also believes Leinster flanker Sean O’Brien is in the frame.

“He was the seven four years ago when [the Lions] smashed Australia, and Warren Gatland will remember that and knows what he can deliver.

“He has given himself every opportunity.”

Gatland will confirm his squad on 19 April with the first game of the tour on 3 June.

You can listen to BBC Radio 5 live’s Rugby Union Weekly Podcast here.

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