Wilkinson: Lions leadership group more important than captaincy


Jonny Wilkinson has downplayed the importance of a captain's role for the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.

The Lions squad for the tour, which starts in June with six warm-up matches before the first Test against the All Blacks in Auckland, is announced on April 19.

There are several candidates for the role of captain, with Sam Warburton considered the favourite and his Wales team-mate Alun Wyn Jones, Ireland's Rory Best, and England's Dylan Hartley and Owen Farrell also thought to be in the running.

England coach Eddie Jones said recently that - if he were in Lions coach Warren Gatland's position - he would select three or four players in a leadership group and pick the captain after the warm-ups.

And World Cup-winning former England fly-half Wilkinson is of similar mind, believing that having a group of players who can all fulfil the role of skipper is paramount for the Lions.

"I think maybe having three or four guys in there that you know can take the role of captain, and you know of those three or four guys whichever one ends up in the team, or however many of them, they're capable of doing that job," Wilkinson told Sky Sports News.

"You can't just go out there with this idea you've got one captain. You'll have one captain who's main captain but you'll need another leadership group of five or six who have the same inspirational effect and who are treated as captains also.

"I think also it's important when you have a captain that you understand is he going to be in the team? Is he going to be possibly not in the team? Could it work either way? I think all these decisions need to be understood at a deeper level.

"But ultimately every player on that tour needs to be functioning somewhere near the level of captain in order to come back with victories."

Asked if the captain needs to be on the pitch for the majority of the time, Wilkinson - who played on two Lions tours including the 3-0 loss to New Zealand in 2005 - replied: "In an ideal world probably yes, you want the captain on the field where the action is for as much as possible but at the same time I'm more of a firm believer that no position is ever pencilled in.

"It's not until the eve of the first game or the selection of the first game that week before that you should know your team."