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British & Irish Lions
Johnno backs Jones for Lions captaincy
ESPN Staff
March 20, 2013

Martin Johnson believes Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones is a leading candidate to captain the British & Irish Lions on their tour of Australia this summer.

Wales' Sam Warburton, England's Chris Robshaw and Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll appear to be the central contenders to captain Warren Gatland's side in the three-Test series with the Wallabies. But Johnson, who captained the Lions on their last victorious tour to South Africa in 1997, believes the Welsh second-row should be considered alongside the favourites as a top candidate for the role.

"He's played a lot of games, he's done it, he has been out there before with the Lions in '09, so I think he's in the frame," said Johnson. "I hear a lot of good things about him."

Jones started the first Lions Test in South Africa four years ago before coming on as a replacement in the final two Tests of the 2-1 series defeat. But the 27-year-old has only captained Wales once - against Italy in 2009 - in his 70 appearances for his country and was overlooked during Wales' triumphant Six Nations campaign, when Sam Warburton, Ryan Jones and Gethin Jenkins all performed the role at different stages.

However Johnson, who also led the Lions in 2001 before captaining England to the World Cup in 2003, believes the Ospreys captain can, like he did, overcome a lack of international captaincy experience to lead the Lions.

"I was in a pretty similar situation in 1997," Johnson told BBC Sport. "Phil de Glanville was England captain and I'd only captained my club about 15 times.

"The Lions captaincy has this big aura about it and is a great thing to do, to do well. But ultimately I would rather just play, and win a series, than be captain in a losing series. Everyone overplays the captaincy thing. Whoever gets the job will need the support of the other guys around him."

However Johnson acknowledged that Warburton and Robshaw remain strong candidates for the role.

"Sam Warburton wasn't even in the Welsh team for a while [after being injured early in the Six Nations] but he handled himself pretty well in a tricky situation and came back and played well," Johnson said.

"Chris has played fantastically well for England, doing a very difficult job. When I was England manager, we picked him as a six and he went to Argentina in 2009. But I remember saying to his club coaches at the time, 'if Chris is going to play Test rugby it is probably going to have to be at seven', because England were playing sixes like Tom Croft, and then Tom Wood.

"Chris brought different skills - he is a real hard worker, a real grafter, and his skills go more into playing seven. I think he has done a fantastic job."

Gatland and his coaches will spend the next few weeks deliberating over the make-up of his squad and Johnson insists that ability must be the only criteria for selection.

"There is a lot of rubbish spoken about nationalities. You want guys who all want to win," insisted Johnson. "When I played with the Lions, I wanted to play with the best players; I don't care where they are from.

"The Aussies are good, they're smart rugby players, they'll do everything they can psychologically through the media, it's already started. That's what makes them difficult - you've got to be together, especially now there's no privacy, everyone wants to know your reaction to everything."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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