ADVERTISEMENT
RugbyDump
REGISTER
LOGIN
ADVERTISEMENT
RugbyDump
Thursday Apr 22, 2021

Itoje will be next Lions captain says Warburton, who thinks AWJ's starting place isn't certain

Sam Warburton believes Maro Itoje has the edge over Alun Wyn Jones in the race to become British and Irish Lions captain for the summer tour to South Africa.

ADVERTISEMENT

A week after another former Lions skipper in Paul O’Connell endorsed the credentials of Owen Farrell, Warburton claimed that Itoje’s status as a certainty for the Test team is a major factor in his favour.

The Saracens second row was one of England’s better performers in a poor Six Nations, but his high penalty count appeared to dent his chances of being chosen for the role by Warren Gatland.

But Warburton, Lions captain in 2017 and 2019, does not see that as an obstacle for a player who excelled in New Zealand four years ago and offers more than Wales talisman Jones.

“I’ve gone back and forth, but I’ll go with who I thought at the very beginning and that’s Maro Itoje,” Warburton said.

“Anybody who looked at the first game of the Six Nations against Scotland where he conceded four or five penalties would say ‘oh you can’t do that’, but that was a bit of rustiness.

“Warren will want him primed and ready to go as he’s one of the players who will be a guaranteed Test starter. I was extremely impressed with him in 2017 and Warren would have seen all that as well.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The other captaincy candidates are a little bit older. You question whether it would be a bit too much pressure for them to go through a tour like this at the end of the season.

“I’ve gone back and forth with him and Alun Wyn Jones. Alun Wyn will be up there and I’m sure will captain games on tour, but I would probably go with Maro Itoje.

“The reason I say Maro as captain is because I think he’s a dead cert and it’s between Alun Wyn and James Ryan to battle it out for that number five shirt.

“Warren knows the pressure on the captain if they are not a guaranteed starter and I think there are six bankers to start a Test – Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Taulupe Faletau, Tom Curry, Anthony Watson and Stuart Hogg.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I don’t think he will pick a back as captain, so the other player who has the leadership experience he will want is Maro. If Alun Wyn is captain, though, you know you will be in safe hands.”

Warburton excelled as a flanker in 74 Tests for Wales and five for the Lions and he sees the competition for back row places when Gatland names his squad on May 6 as ferocious with big-name casualties certain.

“I don’t know who will miss out and it will be incredibly cruel, but I think Hamish Watson and Tom Curry will go. I think Sam Simmonds will go” he said.

“Then you’ve also got people who can cover six like Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes and Tadhg Beirne. All of those players plus the Welsh boys Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi and Faletau don’t fit. There’s going to be some big, big omissions.

“If Sam Underhill keeps playing well for Bath, he could go. England missed him and Lawes massively in the Six Nations. You can’t overlook them just because they missed the Six Nations.

“All these brilliant back-rows aren’t going to go. Unfortunately, I’d love to see them all go and they’re all worthy of going, but I think there’s going to be a Welsh casualty.”

Watson was named player of the 2021 Six Nations and Warburton rubbishes the claim that the powerful Scotland flanker, who stands 6’0 and is 16 stones, is too small to face the Springboks.

“Hamish Watson is never too small. Power trumps size every day of the week. I think that Warren Gatland would be purring watching Hamish Watson over the Six Nations,” he said.

“As things are right now he’s a Test starter and I can’t wait to see how he goes in the warm-up games.”

Sam Warburton was speaking as Canterbury launched the British & Irish Lions Test Jersey. Get yours from www.canterbury.com”.

RELATED VIEWING:

Video Spacer

Related Articles

  • 15 WEEKS AGO

    New Rainbow Cup format changed as South African...

  • 15 WEEKS AGO

    The Haka evolution at Rugby World Cups always...

  • 16 WEEKS AGO

    Beale names Russell in Top 5 flyhalves he's...



ADVERTISEMENT

Great Tries

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    No other player has mastered intercepts like Bryan Habana could

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: French flair lights up Brisbane with EPIC coast-to-coast try

  • 4 WEEKS AGO

    Watch how Marcus Smith lit up Twickenham on England debut vs USA

  • 4 WEEKS AGO

    Extended highlights show why Josh Adams could be a Lions Test starter

  • 5 WEEKS AGO

    Aphelele Fassi: The debut Springbok that could change Warren Gatland's Lions selection

View All

Big Hits & Dirty Play

  • 0 HOUR AGO

    This collection of brutal bump offs will remind you why you stopped playing rugby

  • 1 DAY AGO

    Kyle Sinckler biting citing dismissed due to lack of clear evidence

  • 2 DAYS AGO

    The Kyle Sinckler bite that will put him on the next plane home

  • 3 DAYS AGO

    WATCH: Kolbe's clumsy head-on-head with Tom Curry which angered fans

  • 3 DAYS AGO

    WATCH: Stuart Hogg's potential bite on Willie Le Roux in second Test

View All

See It To Believe It

  • 5 DAYS AGO

    Rugby Australia condemn Erasmus public 'attack', back their referee

  • 5 DAYS AGO

    RWC winning coach launches unbelievable one hour rant at officials

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    New Rassie video targets foul play, confirming fake twitter account was his

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    Critics hit out at Rassie Erasmus for fake twitter and 'comical' behaviour

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    Awesome Daly kicking montage shows just how deadly his left boot really is

View All

Funnies

  • 4 DAYS AGO

    WATCH: Five minutes of rugby comedy gold in one hilarious video

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    Unimpressed Vunipola loses patience with Cheslin Kolbe in Cape Town

  • 3 WEEKS AGO

    New compilation of rare Nigel Owens footage is comedy gold

  • 3 WEEKS AGO

    The moment Ellis Genge soaks Ugo Monye live on TV is simply priceless

  • 5 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Inside the Quins changing rooms after winning AWESOME Prem final

View All

Amateur

  • 39 WEEKS AGO

    Viral video of Scottish club brawl goes down a storm with rugby community

  • 76 WEEKS AGO

    RUGBYDUMP BLITZ: This Best of the Week round up is sure to entertain you

  • 77 WEEKS AGO

    RD BLITZ - Disaster, just when it looked so promising...

  • 77 WEEKS AGO

    That glorious moment that will live on forever, like it or not

  • 77 WEEKS AGO

    RD Blitz - PROP'S Lionel Messi wizardy creates incredible try

View All

Player Features

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    A deeper look at Jason Robinson's incredible path to the top

  • 23 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Bumping off tacklers and taking high balls, Rob Kearney had an impressive Super Rugby debut

  • 29 WEEKS AGO

    Brian Moore on money in modern rugby and how it should never be compared to 'outlier' football

  • 30 WEEKS AGO

    Tuisova's wrecking ball montage will make you grateful you never made it as a pro

  • 36 WEEKS AGO

    New Zealand rugby pod admit Owen Farrell is world class

View All