Warren Gatland admits there’s no guarantee his British and Irish Lions captain will make the starting XV if a better candidate emerges during the tour to Australia.
The Wales coach will lead the touring side down under looking to pick up a first series win for the Lions since 1997.
Wales’ Sam Warburton, England’s Chris Robshaw and Ireland pair Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll have all been linked with the role and Gatland is adamant that, should one of those stars not be the best man for the job, he’s not frightened about dropping the skipper from the side.
“Looking at the Lions at the moment there are some positions where there is huge strength in depth,” he told talkSPORT. “A Lions captain’s form has got to be up there. Someone may come through on tour whose form you can’t ignore and who may force themselves into the Test side.
“Potentially you could have a Lions captain who doesn’t make the Test side. I’m prepared to make those hard decisions though.
“You pick a Lions captain and at the time he’s the right person for the job and he’s properly the best in his position, but that’s no guarantee that he’ll get selected for the Test side.”
Rumours are rife that Sam Warburton is the preferred choice to lead the side but Gatland went to say that all players will be picked on merit – rather than for their captaincy ability.
“I don’t have a captain in mind at the moment,” he added. “There are three or four players that are in the mix and their names have already been spoken about in the media.
“When you’re picking a squad the last thing you think about is the captain, the first thing you think about is picking the best players, then you think about a captain who can do the job.”
Warren was a guest landlord at the launch of the Pink Lion pub. An event to celebrate the partnership between Thomas Pink and the British and Irish Lions on their 125th anniversary tour to Australia in 2013.