Brian O’Driscoll is likely to be the senior player on the Lions tour, but he would not be my choice of captain. On a Lions tour the setpiece and the breakdown are crucial to the outcome and you need a player who is in there close to the forward action, talking to the referee, making sure that they understand your team’s point of view.
Everything is contestable in rugby. There is nothing untoward in that. I am a great fan of Richie McCaw who is outstanding at managing the referee. The Lions don’t have a man of Richie’s captaincy experience in the forwards or at halfback, but they do need a captain who can exert an influence on the game.
The other weekend Steve Walsh looked worried every time the scrum went down. You could see the stress in his facial expression. It gets harder and harder for refs all the time, so it was a masterstroke of Wales to make Gethin Jenkins captain for the match against England. Wales dominated the match through the scrummage and all the subsequent scrum penalties they received. Subconsciously Jenkins’ status as captain must have influenced those decisions.
I work with my captains all the time on how they talk to the referee. It is a big part of the game. The captain of the Japanese national side is in his second year of an English language course. The language of rugby is English and it is vital he becomes more conversant with the referee.
At the Brumbies Jake White was working with David Pocock before his injury. Pocock had a habit of laughing when he didn’t agree with a decision. Refs don’t enjoy that. In one match the Brumbies hardly got another decision after Pocock reacted. So Jake worked with his captain on his body language and his facial expression.
I would pick Will Genia to captain Australia in the upcoming series against the Lions, not least because his own performance rises whenever he captains the Reds. But he is also articulate and talks well to the referees.
The Lions will need a similar diplomat because it could well be the difference between winning and losing the series. Chris Robshaw had a difficult time with Walsh on Saturday and that might count against him. He has not always been able to make his voice heard in the big matches.
Warren Gatland has a very difficult decision. He needs a man who can unite disparate nationalities, who is close to the action and who is fluent at speaking Referee.
Who would be your pick to lead the Lions in Australia? Comments below…