Heaslip could captain Lions in Oz says Gatland

BRITISH and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has revealed that he considers Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip as a potential tour captain for the trip to Australia in the summer of 2013.

Gatland, speaking at the launch of the new Lions shirt for the 2013 tour, said: "You could pick potentially an experienced player. He might be tour captain, but might not be good enough to get selected for the Tests. But he could be really good for us as a tour captain.

"Bear in mind that if form's good enough, you get selected. But I think (Jamie) Heaslip, who has captained Ireland for the last couple of games, has put himself in the frame as well."

The news was not quite as good for Sean O'Brien as Gatland indicated that he will more than likely go with a specialist openside flanker against the Wallabies.

Australia are blessed with a trio of tremendously gifted number sevens in the form of David Pocock, Michael Hooper and Liam Gill, and the battle of the breakdown will go a long way to deciding the destiny of the Test series.

"You need genuine sevens going to Australia. You need sevens who are competing hard on the ball. It's not just about Pocock - there is Hooper and Gill as well," he said.

Gatland's statement would suggest that Wales captain Sam Warburton may have an edge on converted blindside O'Brien when it comes to selection.

There was better news for Ireland's rising star Craig Gilroy, as he was mentioned by Gatland for his free-scoring performances.

"Craig Gilroy was outstanding last weekend and he has put himself into contention," said Gatland.