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Gatland wrong to pick Sam as captain

WARREN GATLAND has spoken of "the relationship him and I have had over the last couple of years" as one of the main drivers behind Sam Warburton's selection as the British and Irish Lions captain.

The honour of leading the Lions should not come down to this. It should have come down to the best man for the job, the most inspirational leader on and off the field.

"He has been the most successful captain in the northern hemisphere since the World Cup in 2011. He's only 24. He will lead by example," said Gatland, in defence of his decision.

Then came the caveat: "He's going to need support from some of the other experienced players, like Paul O'Connell and Brian O'Driscoll. They are going to be important in terms of supporting him in a leadership role."

This is complete nonsense. The captain of the Lions should be the one man everyone looks to. He should have that instant global recognition and gravitas as a man as well as a player. Warburton does not have this.

"If we were picking the Test side, and we were naming it tomorrow, he is probably one of the names that would be on the list," said Gatland.

"Looking at some of the other positions, there is so much depth in terms of potential selection dilemmas we would have," he added.

Common sense indicates that Gatland does not feel in his bones that O'Connell or O'Driscoll are as certain to start the first Test as Warburton or durable enough to go the distance.

The New Zealander also admitted to the "potential" of going for combinations he knows work together, presumably from his time in Wales.

The Dragons did not beat Australia in four attempts in less than a year. That is a record of failure that showed Gatland needs more than what he had.

But he believes the intensity Wales showed against England in the Six Nations is the template for finally putting one over on the Wallabies.

"The Welsh players that have been there and done that in the past have gone through that learning process and then you add to some of those players the qualities we have from the other nations."

For all Gatland's statements of giving everyone an opportunity, the Irish, English and Scottish players are going to have to be better than their Welsh brothers to earn a Test match jersey.

In fact, Leinster top the number of players from a single club, and all are potential Test starters.

O'Driscoll, number eight Jamie Heaslip and full-back Rob Kearney all played for the Lions in South Africa four years ago beside then captain O'Connell.

Jonathan Sexton will travel to Australia as the fly-half front-runner with Cian Healy locked into a 50-50 battle with Gethin Jenkins at loose-head, and Sean O'Brien's versatility makes him a strong contender in the back row.