Warren Gatland insists Lions captain must earn starting place
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 19/03/17 11:04pm
Warren Gatland has revealed his Lions captain will not be guaranteed a starting place in the Test team.
Gatland is due to name his squad on April 19 ahead of taking charge of the British and Irish Lions for the second time this summer, live on Sky Sports.
As ever, the identity of his skipper has been subject to intense speculation, with Gatland's 2013 leader Sam Warburton and England's Owen Farrell joining the serving Home Nations captains in the debate.
Wales forward Warburton and Farrell have been touted on the grounds that they appear to be two players certain of a first-choice role in the XV, but Gatland insists his chosen lieutenant is not certain to play.
"I think the captaincy is a great honour, but whoever the captain is going to be there'll be no guarantee he plays in the Tests," he told the BBC.
"His form has to be good enough. I think whoever that person is has to rise to that, the message to that person is it's a great honour to captain the Lions but your form has to be good enough to be selected for the Tests.
"For the other players in that position I'll be having the same conversation as well. You say 'if your form is good enough and you play better than the captain, then there's every opportunity you can play in the Tests'."
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Gatland's view is not shared by one of his predecessors, Sir Clive Woodward, whose Lions side were beaten 3-0 on the previous New Zealand tour in 2005.
Woodward, England's World Cup-winning coach, believes the captain must be a certain pick and tipped Warburton on those grounds.
"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.
"Personally 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."
Pressed on Warburton's claims, Gatland said: "He's a different captain to some other players, he leads by example. He doesn't say a lot but he has that experience.
"He's one of the guys in contention, definitely. In my mind there's probably half a dozen people in contention."