Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport. He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.Read more exclusive columns
The Lions Form XV - Round Five
allblacks.com 21 Mar 2017 Getty Images
Nationality plays a huge part in who the fans favour for the Lions, with some unable to look past their own team when it comes to form. Some will be quick to suggest coach Warren Gatland suffers from the same affliction if the Kiwi born coach of Wales picks a Welshman to lead the Lions. He should, because two are easily his best options from a pool of six.
QUICK TAP: CAPTAINCY CONUNDRUM SHAPING FOR LIONS
Five of those have been the regular skipper during the Six Nations with Alun Wyn Jones in a superb former at lock for Wales. Though they haven’t got the results they perhaps deserved, Jones is clearly a good leader of men but is unfortunately now under an injury cloud. Rory Best has been consistent for Ireland in a tournament that saw the Irish start with a loss to Scotland and finish with a convincing win against the more heavily fancied England.
LIONSWATCH | Do you agree with @CliveWoodward's choice at first five-eighth for @lionsofficial?Former Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward says the obvious captain is Sam Warburton. "You need one person who is going to be in the Test team without a shadow of a doubt, a Brian O'Driscoll, a Martin Johnson, a Lawrence Dallaglio type of figure," he said.
READ: https://t.co/mwzKDF2gJ6 pic.twitter.com/1W72p22HBS— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) March 20, 2017
"I have always been a huge fan of Sam Warburton, he knows Warren well, he's been a successful Lions captain already. Would he be in the starting team? Absolutely, the first name on the sheet."
Former Ireland lock Paul O’Connell, who captained the Lions to South Africa in 2009, says the skipper needs to be a man of action, not words. "Sam Warburton certainly does that, he absolutely ends himself whenever he plays for Wales and he did the same when he played for the Lions.
"I mean, the amount of work he gets through, you need someone like that, someone who the players can follow in their example."
Warburton has been rock solid for Wales especially on defence and his combination with openside Justin Tipuric and No. 8 Ross Moriarty has been second-to-none. Ireland’s blindside flanker CJ Stander’s been very good too, but he may yet play No. 8 for Gatland.
Warburton was Gatland’s captain in Australia four years ago and led the Lions in the first two tests till he was injured, and replaced by Jones who guided the Lions to a record 41-16 win in the third and final test in Sydney. The big lock has been a stand out player for Wales in the Six Nations and for me is the leading contender to be this year’s tour captain behind Warburton.
Gatland will have decided who his captain is. If Warburton does get the nod, he will be just the second player to captain the Lions on successive tours. Martin Johnson did it in 1997 and 2001. They won the first tour, to South Africa, and lost the second one to Australia. Warburton won his first series as skipper too, so All Blacks fans will be hoping that pattern continues.
Final round form XV
15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14 George North (Wales)
13 Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
11 Tim Visser (Scotland)
10 Finn Russell (Scotland)
9 Rhys Webb (Wales)
8 Ross Moriarty (Wales)
7 Justin Tipuric (Wales)
6 Sam Warburton (Wales
5 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
4 Joe Launchbury (England)
3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
2 Rory Best (Ireland)
1 Joe Marler (England)
PODCAST | What's on @LimaSopoaga's Netflix watchlist? Find out this and more on the #AllBlacksPodcast!
LISTEN: https://t.co/uAK1m9fGrm pic.twitter.com/rDlGapwrVs— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) March 19, 2017