Paul O’Connell believes England’s ‘standout leader’ Owen Farrell is the ideal candidate to captain the British & Irish Lions on the upcoming tour of South Africa.
England’s Maro Itoje and Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones have widely been singled out as the leading candidates for the Lions captaincy, but O’Connell has thrown Farrell’s name into the hat.
O’Connell, who captained Ireland and the Lions, says Farrell’s competitive nature sets him apart from the other possible candidates.
‘I like Owen Farrell, he’s a real standout leader for me,’ O’Connell told the Telegraph. ‘With matches being played without crowds, you can hear so much of what the players are saying during games.
‘You can hear Owen barking at his own players and encouraging them. A lot of it is about getting off the line and the physical side of the game, but a lot of it is also coaching people into position as well.
‘He’s pretty experienced, he’s been on two tours already and he has a big leadership role with England. It wouldn’t be unfamiliar territory for him. There are plenty of guys who could do the job, but for me in terms of experience and an appetite to lead, he’s the real standout.
‘When you pick a captain or leaders for the Lions tour, it’s about picking guys who are willing to take ownership of what the plan is. Owen is a guy who enjoys leading and enjoys taking ownership. He’s almost coaching.’
‘As a team England didn’t play as well as they’d have liked in the Six Nations,” O’Connell said. “Is that a reflection on Owen Farrell? I don’t really think so.’
‘If Alun Wyn Jones isn’t captain, he doesn’t change how he behaves,’ O’Connell said. ‘He’s still the same character. He’s another standout candidate, but you just sometimes wonder if a guy who has captained an awful lot and who didn’t have an awful lot of games coming into a fantastic Six Nations, if it would be good for him not to be captain for once.
‘He’d be able to concentrate on his own game and support someone like a Farrell. I’d love to see Maro playing great rugby. He’s already a line-out caller. Wyn Jones captains Wales but doesn’t call the line-out, it’s a stress they take away from him which allows him to do his job better. You might think the same of Maro Itoje.’
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