Owen Farrell has to be in the mix when discussing candidates for the British and Irish Lions captaincy, says head coach Warren Gatland.
Farrell was a key component of an England side that won back-to-back Six Nations titles and embarked on a record-equalling 18 consecutive Test victories by a tier-one nation.
With his ability to slot in at fly-half or inside centre and his flawless kicking off the tee, Farrell is almost guaranteed a spot on the plane for the tour of New Zealand, providing he avoids injury.
Former England and Lions star Will Greenwood has suggested Farrell should even be given the armband and Gatland acknowledged the 25-year-old will be part of the discussion.
“I know his [Farrell’s] name has been discussed. The beauty is he can cover two positions at 10 and 12, and he’s a great goal kicker,” Gatland told Sky Sports.
“The way he’s developed, I think he’s world class. I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say he’s got a chance of being selected.
“He’s a real competitor. He didn’t have the best game versus Italy, I think he’ll admit that, but he was very good for the rest of the Six Nations.
“He’s a real fighter, he’s a winner. He’s someone I think that potentially you could easily put in the mix and discuss as well.”
Gatland also reiterated that whichever player is handed the armband is not necessarily guaranteed a start against the All Blacks.
“He [captain] doesn’t have to start,” Gatland added. “Ideally the discussion with the captain will be what a fantastic honour [it is], but their form has to be good enough to be selected.
“Then the second conversation is with players in the same position, they might be a bit disappointed and they think they might not play.
“But if they play well enough and their form is good enough they’ll start. You want that competition in the squad.
“The biggest challenge is if we get it right off the field, we can get it right on the field. It’s about trying to get the right personalities and characters, that’s key to winning the series.”
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