Itoje ready for Lions captaincy, says Moody

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Former England back row Lewis Moody believes Maro Itoje should be considered for the captaincy when the British and Irish Lions tour New Zealand.

The 22-year-old has become an integral part of Eddie Jones' side since making his international debut last year, his ability with the ball and hunger for a tackle making him a forward to be feared.

Itoje's rise to prominence saw him named European player of the year, the Saracens flanker also excelling when called upon to play in the second row.

Moody says Itoje - who will revert to the back row for England's Six Nations opener with France - is a natural leader and should be consider by Warren Gatland as Lions skipper later this year. 

"I think we'll see another wonderful performance from Maro Itoje [against France] and we'll see him involved in the game far more," Moody told Omnisport.

"If he has a good Six Nations, as an outside shot, I'd love to see him given an opportunity of the Lions captaincy, a la Martin Johnson in 1997, he's a young, hungry, enthusiastic guy who is a natural leader. 

"I think he can [handle the pressure]. It's about picking someone who is massively respected and for me you see Itoje and he is a natural leader - just by the way he plays and inspires others, he's a motivator of men whether he means to be or it just comes natural to him and sometimes that's all you need.

"It's an outside shot when you've got the like of Rory Best and Alun Wyn Jones, Dylan Hartley as well. But I'd like to see him, if he plays well in the Six Nations, possibly pushing for an opportunity there."

Itoje's move back to blindside flanker to face the French at Twickenham has pleased Moody, who says he can go on to become a world-class player in that position.

"I honestly think he should have been playing in that position all along, I think he's a great player," said Moody.

"If he's playing second row because it's just about getting your best players on the pitch then I get that, having four back rows instead of three is probably a good thing, but if he is going to become a world-class player - and I believe he will be, he's very close to it at the minute anyway in terms of the consistency of his performances - then I think his best position will be six.

"The ball carrying ability, the physicality, the speed, the power, the pace, the strength, the tackling, just the way that he motivates his team as well - he's a natural leader. 

"I am excited to see him playing at six, and when you have got [Joe] Launchbury, [George] Kruis, [Courtney] Lawes and [Dave] Attwood to choose from anyway there is great strength in depth in that position, but Itoje playing in the back row just adds something else."

 

Lewis Moody is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover has a heritage in supporting rugby at all levels, from grassroots to the elite. Through its 'We Deal In Real' campaign, Land Rover continues to shine a light on the people, players and clubs at the heart and soul of the game.