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Guscott: Jones and Farrell would make great Lions captains

Guscott: Jones and Farrell would make great Lions captains

British & Irish Lions legend Jeremy Guscott has backed both Alun Wyn Jones and Owen Farrell as strong options to captain on next year’s Tour of South Africa.

Guscott, a three-time Lions tourist who helped deliver series wins in Australia in 1989 and South Africa in 1997, spoke about his personal preference of a forward as captain, influenced by formidable Scottish flanker Finlay Calder.

There is of course a lot of rugby to be played before the much-anticipated Tour to the home of Siya Kolisi’s world champions, but with all-time great and now retired Sam Warburton no longer an option as skipper, Guscott outlined Jones and Farrell as favourites for the role.

“The first name that comes to mind is Alun Wyn Jones,” explained Guscott, who last week relived the exhilarating memories of his decisive 1989 try. “He’s captain of Wales, if he’s fit and playing as well as he has done, he would be the favourite of many. Alun Wyn plays well every time he sets foot on a field.

“Maro Itoje is possible but I’m not sure if he’ll get to captain England, not while Owen Farrell is around, so Farrell might do the Lions as well.

“He could do it, but I always found it easier to follow a forward, because they are so involved in every facet of the game.

“At fly-half you can have some brilliant moments but also some blooper moments, and if you have more bloopers than great, you can be questioned.

“I’m sure the guys who went on the New Zealand Tour will have massive high regard for Owen because of how he played there, so I think he would be accepted completely.

“Everybody prefers to follow different people for different reasons and I lean towards a forward rather than a fly-half.

“I don’t have a massive view on it personally, but I think Alun Wyn and Owen Farrell will be favourites. Alun Wyn, with his experience, would take it in his stride, as would Owen.”

Warburton hung up his boots with an incredibly impressive record as Lions skipper, winning the 2013 Australia series 2-1 before 2017’s edge-of-the-seat 1-1 drawn series in New Zealand.

Guscott himself played under equally inspirational captains, Calder doing the job in 1989, his fellow countryman Gavin Hastings in 1993, and lock Martin Johnson in 1997.

Guscott, labelled the ‘Prince of Centres’ by Sir Clive Woodward, made 23 Lions appearances over his three Tours, eight of them Tests, recognised Calder as a fine role model as captain.

“A captain has to be a dead cert for the team,” added the 54-year-old. “It has to be someone who is undeniably and unquestionably a man whose place is unchallenged.

“He doesn’t have to be the first name on the sheet but he does have to be a starter, and then is that person one of the most selfless guys in the squad?

“And that changes a bit as time has gone on. The role of the captain I think has become less and less because of the way the game’s played.

“Captains used to be part of selection discussions, that’s no longer the case, you’ve got more of a leadership group than you used to.

“So the captain has to be a guaranteed starter and then it’s about that person’s character and personality, will the rest of the squad respect that person, listen to what he has to say and follow him on the field?

“For me I looked at a captain to follow them on the field more than looking off it. I followed a captain because of what he did on the field, did and done, rather than said.

“We had Finlay in 1989, he was questioned before the Tour because some said Andy Robinson, the England flanker was likely to be picked, but as the Tour went on Finlay was such a great player and a great captain.

“He was an intelligent, bright man who played rugby incredibly hard, he made the most of his skillset and orally he was brilliant.

“On the field he was 100 percent committed, he played the best he possibly could every time he went out. No more than anybody else tried, but such an extremely intelligent rugby player.”

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