British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has hinted English lock Maro Itoje is in the running to captain the side during next year’s tour to South Africa.
The Lions will face the Springboks in three Test matches between 24 July and 7 August their tour in 2021.
Already there has been significant debate over who should captain the invitational team in the Test matches, with Owen Farrell, Alun Wyn Jones and Maro Itoje all mentioned as possible candidates.
In an interview with Rugby World magazine, Gatland hinted that Itoje may be the frontrunner to get the captain’s armband, hailing the player as ‘an intelligent man’.
‘He’s an intelligent player and an intelligent man and has been incredibly successful in his career,’ Gatland said, who shared his thoughts with Rugby World after being named as the coach of the last six decades in their 60th edition.’He would definitely be in contention as one of the possibilities as captain.
‘It’s about picking the squad and then saying who do we think will be captain material. Ideally, it’s somebody who has come from a team that’s been pretty successful. The next question is if we were picking the Test team now, is there a good chance this person would make that Test team?
‘Itoje is the name that keeps cropping up,’ Gatland added. ‘You look at that and go, well, there are some pretty good second rows around and he’s not bad. You have Courtney Lawes and George Kruis.
‘How’s Alun Wyn Jones going at that time? There’s James Ryan. There’s no doubt about Itoje’s quality.’
Itoje has already been back to lead the Lions by former player and coach Sir Ian McGeechan, who wrote in The Telegraph that Itoje was a ‘certain starter’ who he ‘admires hugely’.
At 22-years-old, Itoje was the youngest player selected for the Lions’ tour to New Zealand in 2017. He played all three Tests as they drew the series against the All Blacks 1-1.
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