Alun Wyn Jones the man to captain the Lions, says Martin Johnson
By Keith Moore
Last Updated: 21/03/17 2:11pm
Martin Johnson said on current form Wales' Alun Wyn Jones is the man to lead the British and Irish Lions in June.
Jones took up the Wales captaincy after Sam Warburton stepped down ahead of the Six Nations, and Johnson has backed the 116-cap international to lead the Lions in New Zealand.
"As the tournament has gone on I just thought Alun Wyn Jones has played really well," said Johnson. "Right now if you're picking a Test team I'd pick him in the second row and I'd pick him as captain. That would by my choice."
Johnson - the only man to captain the Lions in two series - says the competitive nature of this year's Six Nations will ensure Warren Gatland has plenty to ponder ahead of his Lions squad announcement on April 19, particularly in the pack.
"I think he's got some really tough calls," said Johnson. "Like anything there's obviously some guys who are in the 'definites', some guys in the 'highly likelys', the 'probables', and there's a bunch that you're going to have to pick the rest from - the 'possibles'.
"There was a lot of talk about Jonny Gray and numbers, but I think Richie Gray had more impact. He's a more mature player than he was four years ago."
Martin Johnson on second row selections for the Lions
"I think a No 8 like Billy Vunipola will go, but who else will go? [Taulupe] Faletau has not played that much in the Six Nations but we know he's a quality player, and then there's some young guys like Ross Moriarty."
The 47-year-old says second row is an area of particularly acute competition for places in the squad.
"I think Alun Wyn Jones for me has nailed one down, I think Maro Itoje has nailed one down.
"Richie Gray for me was the best Scottish second row - there was a lot of talk about Jonny Gray and numbers, but I think Richie Gray had more impact. He's a more mature player than he was four years ago."
The 10-game tour of New Zealand represents the biggest challenge these players will ever face, says Johnson, but urged those involved to write their names in the history books.
"The challenge is the biggest in rugby, simple as that. New Zealand are always very good - that goes back from the dawn of rugby time.
"Win a series down there, you go with the immortals straight away in a very special group of players. It's worth the effort, it's worth the sacrifice to put everything into that six or seven weeks."
The players will no longer have a chance to showcase their credentials on the international stage, as the Six Nations concluded in thrilling fashion in Dublin on Saturday.
England's hopes of a tier one record of 19 consecutive Test victories were halted by Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, with Joe Schmidt's side winning 13-9 to finish second in the championship.
"The nature of Ireland's performance I don't think would have been any surprise to anyone, that's how they're going to play," said Johnson.
"They can handle the wet weather - they played like that against France - they're going to play with a huge amount of passion; you have to take that away from them and force them into errors.
"It was a typical Six Nations game. Those games have been happening since before I was even playing the game. It's nice that things don't change but it was disappointing from England's point of view."
The 2003 World Cup winner says England will learn from the loss and benefit from it in the long term.
"If you're winning two consecutive Grand Slams everything's fine - you do need to sometimes be brought back down to earth.
"I said before the game it's a survivable loss for England, they're still going to be champions - and even if they weren't, it's survivable."