Next Up for the Boys in Green, The All Blacks

Irish Rugby Next Up All Blacks
25 February 2017; Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray, right, of Ireland during the RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship game between Ireland and France at the Aviva Stadium in Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

With the final round of the Six Nations over, all eyes are on Warren Gatland and his selections for the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.

The final day of the competition saw Ireland spoil England’s Grand Slam party, a 100th-minute to try to clinch victory for France over Wales, while Scotland held Italy to nil for the first time in their 27 meetings.

But now attention turns to the tour in June. Former Wales head coach Gatland has said that whoever he picks for captain will not be guaranteed a starting place.

It is widely assumed that Ireland will provide the all important fly-half and scrum-half positions through Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton, injury prevailing, while others like CJ Stander are thought to be guaranteed a seat on the plane to New Zealand.

Gatland, returning to his native country to attempt to beat them, said that ‘half a dozen players are in contention’ to lead the squad, which will be named on April 19th.

“The captaincy is a great honour, but whoever the captain is, there’ll be no guarantee he plays,” said Gatland. “The captain’s form has to be good enough,” he said on Sportsweek. “I think whoever that person is has to rise to that; the message is it’s a great honour to captain the Lions but your form has to be good enough to be selected for the Tests.

“When you are looking at a captain, you want to be reasonably confident he is going to be starting in the Tests. But it is not a guarantee, it is just part of the criteria.”

Last time around Wales’ Sam Warburton captained the side to a 2-1 victory over the three tests, making him the youngest ever Lions captain at the age of 24.

And one of Gatland’s predecessors thinks that the Cardiff Blues flanker is an ideal candidate again, as he stated that he believes that one person in the squad should be have an assured place on the starting 15.

“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,” Woodward said on BBC Radio 5 live’s Sportsweek programme.

“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.”

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