THE Lions choose their squad on Tuesday morning to tour Australia and much attention will be focused on Warren Gatland's captaincy call. We profile the five frontrunners for the job.
In 2011, the Blues flanker showed he was made of the right stuff by skippering Wales to their best World Cup finish in 24 years, inspiring the squad with his leadership by example. Warburton impressed all with his maturity and quiet authority. Has since seen the Wales captaincy pass to others, albeit while Warren Gatland has been away. A potential complication is that the outstanding Justin Tipuric plays in the same position.
Lions captain in 2009, the Munster man has been plagued by injuries this season but has roared back to his best with mighty Heineken Cup performances against Harlequins and Clermont Auvergne. The 6ft 6in lock cuts an immense figure at the heart of every pack he plays for and has the ability to galvanise those around through the sheer scale of his efforts. Will also be fancied to figure in the Tests.
The peerless Irish centre is hoping for a series win to round off his Lions days. A tour captain under Clive Woodward in 2005, he saw his trip ended by an infamous double tackle from Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu which left him with a dislocated shoulder. At 34, O'Driscoll can safely be called a veteran, but he excelled for Leinster in their Amlin Cup semi-final win over Biarritz and still has rare quality.
Alun Wyn Jones
Has been acclaimed for his inspirational leadership of the Ospreys, driving them to the Pro12 last season with his blend of fire-and-ice captaincy. He sets a buccaneering example with his play in the second row but is also cool-headed enough to make sharp decisions in the heat of battle. He has led Wales before but Warren Gatland gave the job to Warburton in 2011. His leadership claims have been endorsed by no less a person than Martin Johnson, Lions captain in 1997 and 2001.
The hooker has captained Ireland and has been outstanding for them and Ulster this season, combining accuracy with mobility and dynamism around the field. Playing in a specialist position, Best is uncertain of a Test place, however, with Richard Hibbard coming through as the former hooker in the Six Nations.
Latest odds: 4-9 Warburton, 3-1 O'Driscoll, 9-2 O'Connell, 9-1 A W Jones, 14-1 Best.