Brown backs Murray as Lions skipper with Itoje 'not ready'

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Former England full-back Mike Brown believes Conor Murray will do a 'great job' as British & Irish Lions captain
Former England full-back Mike Brown believes Conor Murray will do a 'great job' as British & Irish Lions captain

CONOR MURRAY’S appointment as British & Irish Lions came as a shock to Mike Brown but the former England international has backed the Ireland star to succeed – with Maro Itoje ‘not yet ready’ to take on such a role.

Murray is filling the sizable leadership shoes of Alun Wyn Jones, who dislocated his shoulder against Japan, as he embarks on his third Lions tour.

And it’s that vast international experience which, according to Brown, makes the 32-year-old a sensible choice to take on the task of becoming the first Lions skipper to win a series in South Africa since Martin Johnson in 1997.

“It completely came out the blue,” said Brown, who will swap Harlequins for Newcastle Falcons this summer. 

“I wouldn’t have seen that coming as [Warren] Gatland usually seems to like a forward.

“Saying that, Murray is so experienced on these tours, he’s obviously a good leader for Ireland in the position he plays and he’ll be involved in those senior groups anyway.

“He’s also very physical, never takes a backward step as a nine and will be massive for the Lions’ gameplan.

“He’s everyone’s front-runner to start as well. If you put all those things together, I think he’ll do a great job.

“He’s been there and done it and he’s a world-class player.”

Murray’s case was arguably aided by a lack of obvious captaincy contenders following Jones’ injury.

Itoje, often earmarked as a future England skipper, could have been in contention but Brown feels this was not the time to give his former teammate the responsibility.

“I’m not sure if he’s ready to captain - I’m not sure he’s a captain style yet,” he said.

“He’s a very different personality to Owen [Farrell] and people like that.

“He’s a lot more softly-spoken, which isn’t a bad thing, but he wouldn’t necessarily be someone who would be captain on this type of tour.

“Ken Owens was another option but is he nailed on to start? Same with Owen, he does a great job for England but where does he fit in to the Test team at the moment?

“You can’t really captain if you’re not nailed on to start.”

Brown is helping to connect rugby fans across the country with the British & Irish Lions, with Land Rover having launched a nationwide rugby themed treasure hunt.

Over 900 UK locations have been tagged with a digital Lion, with rugby fans encouraged to visit https://lionsadventure.com/to find their nearest tagged location.

To enter the competition, all fans need to do is visit the tagged location, find the digital Lion, and tap them via the Lions Adventure site on their phone.

In doing so, fans will be in with a chance of winning exclusive prizes including signed Lions merchandise and an exclusive screening of the second Lions Test match on July 31.

“It’s not like a normal Lions tour with all the fans over there so it’s a great initiative to help fans over here feel part of it as much as possible,” Brown said.

“To have grassroots clubs as part of it is great as all of us who reach this level owe everything to those clubs and the amazing people who run them.”

Join Land Rover on its Lions Adventure, and be in with a chance to win exclusive prizes. Visit https://lionsadventure.com/ and follow @LandRoverRugby on Twitter

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