Jamie Heaslip is among the candidates for the captaincy of the British and Irish Lions, while Ulster winger Craig Gilroy has forced his way into squad selection after his sensational debut against Argentina last weekend, Lions boss Warren Gatland has revealed.
Speaking at the unveiling of the new Lions strip, Gatland said that Heaslip’s experience of leading Ireland in the recent autumn internationals had pushed him into contention for the Lions captaincy.
“Someone like Heaslip has captained Ireland in the last couple of games, that puts him in the frame,” said Gatland. “There are a lot of potential options. The number one thing is to pick a captain whose form is good enough, who has the respect of the squad and will be good enough to be selected for the test matches.”
Gatland said Gilroy’s eye-catching performance against the Pumas had also propelled him into the squad reckoning. “We are looking at the players that have the form, reputation and pedigree, and seeing where they are, and then looking at the youngsters who are putting up their hands. The obvious example from last weekend is the Irish wing Craig Gilroy. He has put himself into contention.”
The final squad will be revealed after the Six Nations.
Gatland also said Ireland are the team that have most impressed him in the November internationals.
“Ireland have looked pretty strong,” he said.
“I thought they were really good in the first half against South Africa. They were disappointing in the second half but then they’ve kicked on and improved.
“The pleasing thing about Ireland last week was that they went out and played rugby. They got the ball into Craig Gilroy’s hands, which was great, and then you saw the experience of someone like Tommy Bowe as well - he was outstanding.
“It was the first time really that they’d coped without some of the guys who’ve been around there for a long time, the O’Driscolls and the O’Connells. They’ve been the icons of the team and they’ve seemed to struggle when their presence hasn’t been there. But they looked comfortable without that experience, which was pleasing.”