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Geech tips Warburton for Lions job

Tue, 19 Mar 2013 13:22
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Sam Warburton is my front-runner
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Two-time Lions tourist and five-time coach Sir Ian McGeechan has suggested that Welsh flank Sam Warburton is the right man to lead the British & Irish Lions on their tour of Australia.

With debate raging over whom current Lions coach Warren Gatland will entrust the captaincy to, McGeechan has publicly backed the former Wales skipper who guided his country to third place at the 2011 World Cup.

"For me Sam Warburton has come through strongly," McGeechan told the British & Irish Lions website.

The legendary coach has suggested that Warburton be the man for the job with the likes of Brian O'Driscoll and Chris Robshaw as more than capable alternatives.

"You try to implement the same principles of play so that it becomes second nature to the group. That requires strong, collective leadership. Sam Warburton is my front-runner," McGeechan mentioned.

The former Lion said: "The biggest question mark hanging over him was his ability to stay fit.

"It was not an indictment of Warburton for him to be held back from the Wales captaincy. Rob Howley did exactly the right thing.

"What gets you on the plane for the Lions is playing well. Leadership qualities never go away. Your form or fitness can. His last two games have answered all the questions," McGeechan added.

The Lions have got an incredible array of talent in the loose-forward ranks which means that Warburton is going to find it difficult to make the starting XV.

The likes of Chris Robshaw, Sean O'Brien, England's make-shift No. 8 Tom Woods, fellow Welsh flank Justin Tipuric and Peter O'Mahoney have all staked a claim this season which means Warburton's leadership ability and his performance against England could have booked him a place on the plane to Australia.

McGeechan cannot overlook Robshaw who is the only loose-forward from the British Isles to be nominated as Six Nations player of the tournament.

"Ireland have not had a great tournament but how would their No. 8 Jamie Heaslip fare if he were put between Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric? Pretty well, I would say.

"Scotland wing Tim Visser showed what a good finisher he was on Saturday night at the Stade de France. We have seen enough to know that the Lions will trouble Australia," the former mentor said.

The Six Nations came to life in the last round and that encourages McGeechan.

"It was great that the Championship finished on a real high at the Millennium Stadium, with big-game players such as Mike Phillips and Jamie Roberts, both Lions in 2009, really stepping up.

"They came into their own. Big, intelligent men running hard. That is how you squeeze Australia. It starts in the front five, through to the back-row and midfield. If you get that right, then you are in business," McGeechan added.

The former Scottish international is upbeat about the Lions’ chances Down Under and feels that there are enough attacking options in the British Isles to cause the Australians a lot of problems.

"As for attacking potential, the players are there. The hard grounds of Australia will draw the best from players like Roberts, Rob Kearney, George North, Jonathan Sexton and others," McGeechan explained.

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