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Book closed on Sam Warburton to captain Lions


The fierce debate over the British and Irish Lions captaincy in Australia this summer turned full circle when a leading bookmaker suspended betting on Sam Warburton, the Wales flanker, who started the season as red-hot favourite before drifting towards outsider status as injury and poor form undermined his candidacy.

Ladbrokes made their decision after taking “a flood of money” on the Cardiff Blues player, much of it from gamblers in Wales.

As recently as February, Warburton was listed by the bookies as a 33-1 no-hoper, way behind Chris Robshaw, the England captain, and the celebrated Ireland centre Brian O’Driscoll. When another Irishman, the lock Paul O’Connell, staked his claim with a brilliant Heineken Cup performance for Munster earlier this month, most observers felt the race was wide open. But over the last couple of days, business on Warburton has been brisk. He is now the favourite at 4-7.

Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach on secondment from Wales, will announce his tour party, complete with leadership hierarchy, in London a week on Tuesday.