Sam Warburton set to captain Lions

Wales flanker is coach Warren Gatland's choice for three-Test summer trip to Australia as tourists seek to end barren run

Sam Warburton is set to be named captain of the British & Irish Lions later this month. The 24-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker skippered Wales to the Six Nations' Championship Grand Slam under Warren Gatland's coaching last year before the New Zealander was seconded to the Lions this season as head coach for the three-Test, 10-match trip in June and July.

Warburton was also Gatland's man when the Welsh reached the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup, but injury and a loss of form saw him lose his place during this year's Six Nations, which Wales won again with Ryan Jones as skipper for three matches, and Warburton and Gethin Jenkins once each.

But Gatland is thought to have decided at least a month ago that Warburton was his choice for the trip down under, where the Lions will seek a first Test series win in four attempts since 1997.

It could be seen as a gamble, as the Tottenham Hotspur-supporting, Cardiff-born back-rower with an English father will be the first man to captain the Lions on his debut tour since Scotland's Finlay Calder led the trip to Australia in 1989.

The Lions won that series 2-1, but subsequent captains Martin Johnson (1997 and 2001), Brian O'Driscoll (2005) and Paul O'Connell (2009) had all been on at least one tour before they were given the leadership role, which comes with a totemic and tactical importance on the field, and heavy duty tasks dealing with sponsors and the media off it.

Irishmen O'Driscoll and O'Connell remain candidates to tour as players and could yet step up if Gatland has a change of heart. But Warburton's calm maturity and popularity with team-mates and press alike appear to have swung the coach's vote ahead of the announcement of the squad and captain on 30 April. Warburton's resurgent display in the Six Nations-sealing win over England last month was well timed too, although he has a record of seven defeats out of seven playing for Wales against Australia.

If Chris Robshaw, England's captain, makes the trip as a utility flanker he and Warburton will face stiff competition for a back-row place, as Justin Tipuric started at openside in Wales's most recent match.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world