O'Mahony's captaincy credentials, back-three competition - what we've learned from the Lions tour

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After three weeks and six matches in New Zealand, the British and Irish Lions' much-anticipated Test series against the All Blacks is almost upon us.

But what have we learned from the Lions' time on tour so far?

Ahead of Saturday's opening Test at Eden Park, we examine the key developments that are likely to have impacted the thinking of head coach Warren Gatland.

 

O'MAHONY A LIKELY LEADER FOR FIRST TEST

Sam Warburton is the tour captain, while Alun Wyn Jones was considered the most likely second option as skipper at the start of the tour if his Wales team-mate was unavailable or not selected.

However, it now appears there is a strong chance of Ireland flanker Peter O'Mahony leading the Lions in the first Test.

O'Mahony was appointed captain for last weekend's win over the Maori All Blacks and could well reprise that role with lingering doubts over Warburton's match fitness following his injury lay-off and Jones seemingly set to be overlooked for a starting berth in the second row.

"I'd be more than comfortable," said Lions assistant coach Andy Farrell regarding the prospect of O'Mahony leading the side once again.

"To be honest, it would be the easiest team to captain because there are so many leaders. The guys who have captained so far have realised they don't have to be vocal all the time because there are always people helping them out."

 

GEORGE JUMPS THE QUEUE

Jamie George has been unable to dislodge Dylan Hartley from the England starting line-up under Eddie Jones, but is expected to wear the Lions number two jersey in Auckland.

Despite Wales and Ireland's starting hookers - Ken Owens and the vastly experienced Rory Best - also being on tour, George has jumped to the front of the queue and impressed against the Maori All Blacks last weekend.

A number of regular England starters - such as Hartley, Joe Launchbury, Chris Robshaw and George Ford - were overlooked by Gatland, but the New Zealander could also hand a starting berth to another player who has primarily been used off the bench by Jones. Ben Te'o is firmly in contention to start at 12, particularly with doubts over the fitness of Owen Farrell.

 

COMPETITION STIFF FOR BACK-THREE BERTHS

One area where Gatland appears to have plenty of depth is in the back three, despite Scotland star Stuart Hogg having been forced out of the tour with injury.

In Hogg's absence, Leigh Halfpenny is expected to start at full-back on Saturday, with Anthony Watson and George North on the wings.

However, Elliot Daly, Liam Williams and Jack Nowell all showed up well against the Chiefs on Tuesday and one of that trio could yet find themselves in the starting XV.