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.
Wayne Rooney is Premier League's richest footballer with £72million worth but Lewis Hamilton leads the Sunday Times Rich List
Memphis Depay to Manchester United: Louis van Gaal faces difficult task as Liverpool hold 'secret' meeting with transfer target
What time does Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao start?
Manchester City vs Aston Villa live: Latest score and updates as Sergio Aguero goal gives City the lead plus Watford promoted to Premier League
Liverpool transfer news: Brendan Rodgers reveals transfer plans to sign a new striker to put Daniel Sturridge's future into doubt
- 1 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 2 How to turn off/stop 'seen by' on Facebook: Disable it to make your chats seem less passive aggressive
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 5 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election