Former test referee Nigel Owens maintains that Alun Wyn Jones and not Maro Itoje or Owen Farrell should lead the British and Irish Lions against South Africa later this year.
Warren Gatland is set to confirm his squad for the tour in the first week of May, with the squad announcement coming shortly afterwards.
Writing in his Wales Online column, Owens explained that Maro Itoje’s reputation for giving away penalties is a significant negative from a refereeing perspective.
“Many were questioning whether Alun Wyn would even make the Lions tour, some citing his age, let alone have any chance of getting into the Test XV.
I suspect a few of those critics are hiding behind a sofa because the Six Nations has changed everything again.”
“I must emphasise I have enormous regard for Farrell and Itoje, who each possess huge strengths of their own,” wrote Owens.
“I’ve refereed Farrell many times for England, always found him to be respectful and a terrific player who leads by example in his own right. I expect him to be one of the favourites to start against South Africa, despite England’s poor form in the Six Nations.
“Perhaps Farrell isn’t guaranteed his place in the way he would have been a year ago, but Gatland knows what he can do. And what’s that saying about form being temporary, class permanent?”
Maro Itoje was heavily criticised for the number of penalties he conceded during the Six Nations and Owens feels that it would count against him as Lions captain.
“I guess the same applies to Itoje, but one of my concerns with him being Lions captain just yet is the number of penalties he gives away. It’s not a good look when your captain keeps being pinged.”
Owens when on to tip Itoje to lead the Lions in 2025 in Australia branding the second-rower as 'a terrific player' before suggesting that the 2021 Tour was 'perhaps this tour is one too soon'.
The referee tipped Alun Wyn Jones to be a test starter with his captaincy giving him an edge. He said that Jones 'possesses a stature, calm manner and respectful choice of words that we [referees] like.'
He completed his column by brushing off any bias:
'This is not Welsh bias speaking, I just feel, everything considered, current form and circumstances taken into account, Alun Wyn Jones is the best man for the job.'