O'Connell tipped for Lions captain role - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

O'Connell tipped for Lions captain role

21/04/2009 08:32:29 AM Comments (0)

Ireland lock Paul O'Connell is expected to beat countryman Brian O'Driscoll to the role of Lions captain when the squad to tour South Africa is named on Tuesday.

A hugely competitive second row forward, O'Connell played a major part in Ireland's long-awaited Six Nations Grand Slam triumph even though centre O'Driscoll was the team's captain.

Lions head coach Ian McGeechan - who can choose players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales - is thought to prefer a forward rather than a back to lead the team and it is expected that it will be O'Connell sitting alongside him and Lions manager Gerald Davies at Tuesday's news conference to announce the squad.

The Lions play three Tests against world champion South Africa at Durban (June 20), Pretoria (June 27) and Johannesburg (July 4) and McGeechan is likely to name players who can take on the Springboks at their fast but physical game.

That could mean that some of the skillful but lightweight stars might not travel. It's also likely that some big names who have been sidelined with long term injuries, such as England's Jonny Wilkinson and Gavin Henson of Wales, will miss out.

Ireland's first Six Nations triumph since 1985 and first Grand Slam since 1948 should be reflected in the inclusion of up to 10 Irish players in McGeechan's squad.

O'Connell is expected to be joined by fellow forwards Jerry Flannery, Donncha O'Callaghan, Stephen Ferris, David Wallace and Jamie Heaslip and O'Driscoll is likely to have Gordon D'Arcy, Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe and Ronan O'Gara alongside him among the backs.

Wales, which won the Grand Slam last year, should also have a strong presence, including 2008 IRB player of the year Shane Williams, but England, despite reaching the 2007 World Cup final, no longer has the same influence on the Lions.

Prop Andrew Sheridan seems certain to be called up and McGeechan may go for the experience of another front row, Phil Vickery. But the current England captain, lock Steve Borthwick, may miss out after failing to make a major impact in the Six Nations and in the November internationals.

Scotland's repeated failure to make an impression in the Six Nations should be reflected in a small number of Lions callups although Mike Blair could be among the scrumhalves along with Wales' Mike Phillips.

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