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.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there