Sam Warburton backs Maro Itoje to captain Lions on South Africa tour

Sam Warburton has backed Maro Itoje to observe in his footsteps and captain the British & Irish Lions this summer season in South Africa. Alun Wyn Jones is the favorite for the function however his compatriot Warburton, who captained the Lions on their two earlier excursions, believes the England and Saracens lock is the very best man for the job.

Warburton’s ringing endorsement comes despite Itoje’s on-field self-discipline issues in the course of the Six Nations in addition to England’s fifth-place end. Warren Gatland has warned that England’s dismal championship might rely in opposition to Eddie Jones’s gamers with regards to choice however Warburton sees Itoje as a assured Lions Check starter and the best chief.

Counting in opposition to Itoje is the truth that an settlement nonetheless has not been reached over gamers based mostly in England being granted early launch to hitch the Lions’ preparation camp in Jersey and play within the pre-tour Check in opposition to Japan in Edinburgh. Compounding issues, the Championship remaining second leg is scheduled for 19 June, which means Itoje would miss the primary week of the camp even when a deal is struck between the Lions and the Premiership golf equipment.

Additionally the shortage of match health of England’s Saracens contingent was highlighted by the RFU on Tuesday as a key motive for his or her dismal Six Nations marketing campaign. Warburton, nonetheless, sees Itoje as one in every of few assured Check starters for the Lions.

“Everyone seemed on the first recreation [of England’s Six Nations campaign, against Scotland] when he gave away 4 of 5 penalties, however I feel that was just a bit little bit of rustiness,” mentioned Warburton. “I feel Warren will need him to be primed and able to go as a result of he’s one of many gamers who will likely be a assured Check starter and I used to be extraordinarily impressed with him in 2017. I feel given his age … a variety of the opposite captaincy candidates are a little bit bit older and I’d query whether or not there’d be an excessive amount of strain to get via a tour like this on the finish of the season.

“I feel Jamie George, Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell will 100% go on tour. Warren actually backs his coaching strategies of getting gamers match-fit earlier than they play. He did it with a variety of gamers, together with myself, over time. I feel he’ll take consolation that he has 4 or 5 video games to get these gamers prepared for the primary Check. However I do fear about Elliot Daly and Billy Vunipola, whether or not Elliot’s kind has dropped off or whether or not Billy would take too lengthy to stand up to match health.”

Warburton urged the Premiership golf equipment to interact with their gamers over early launch to hitch the Lions preparations as soon as their home seasons have completed. “I do query typically whether or not gamers are within the foreground of conversations. If they’d a dialog with the gamers’ affiliation in England and mentioned: ‘What do you need to do?’ I feel they’d be shocked to listen to what the gamers need. It’s laborious to ask for more cash [for player release] in the intervening time, I feel you need to be a little bit extra sympathetic.”

In the meantime, Premiership Rugby introduced the shock resignation of Darren Childs as chief govt on Wednesday solely 20 months into the job. Childs, an unpopular determine inside the league, will be part of CVC – the non-public fairness agency that owns a 27% stake within the Premiership, the place he joins his predecessor Mark McCafferty. It’s understood senior figures at Premiership Rugby weren’t knowledgeable of Childs’s resolution till moments earlier than it was introduced and his departure ends a turbulent tenure that has included the Saracens wage cap scandal and the fallout from the pandemic. PRL will reveal succession plans in the end with Nigel Melville, lately appointed govt chairman, among the many favourites.

Sam Warburton was talking as Canterbury launched the British & Irish Lions Check jersey, out there at

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