2009 will be upon us before we can say “This is your Everest boys”, and that means the next Lions Tour is just around the corner. The Six Nations will take on additional significance as a result as players from the Home Nations look to impress Ian McGeechan and cement their places on the plane to South Africa.
Debate has already started over who should captain the side. Brian O’Driscoll has seen a return to form, and didn’t really get a chance to show his mettle as he was dump-tackled out of the first test in New Zealand. Fellow Irishman Paul O’Connell and Mike Blair from Scotland are also in the frame, but Ryan Jones is the standout candidate for me.
Wales is the only country to have won anything of note in the last four years, with two Grand Slams and a victory over Australia last month. Jones has led with incredible determination, and he seems to be a likeable character that would be able to galvanise men from four different nations to face the World Champions.
It’s also fairly likely that the largest component of the Test team will be Welsh: Shane Williams, Lee Byrne, Gethin Jenkins, Alun Wyn-Jones, Martyn Williams, Stephen Jones are all likely starters. Jones already captains these players and they are likely to respond well to the familiar voice.
Moreover, you cannot question Jones’ commitment to the cause, and he has taken the fight to the Southern Hemisphere nations like no other. He led the challenge of the Haka, refusing to stand down despite the referee’s pleas, and he was as influential as ever in the win over the Wallabies. Some have questioned his recent form and whether his place in the lions team is guaranteed, but his performances against the leading nations will not have gone unnoticed.
The Six Nations will obviously be telling, but with Wales the clear favourites to retain the title, Jones will surely get the nod.
Who do you think should captain the Lions?