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Captaincy conundrum shaping for Lions

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    21 Mar 2017     Getty Images

Even coach Warren Gatland hinted that Hartley could struggle.

He told The Times: "Dylan's done a really good job but he knows he's under pressure from Jamie George [England's No.2 hooker], and a lot of people rate Jamie highly.

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"There's also Rory Best who's done well with Ireland, Ken Owens [Wales] had a good Six Nations – there's a fair bit of competition about the captaincy and also the hooker position.

"If I was going to pick a Test team tomorrow you want to be picking a captain who you're reasonably confident will be in the Test team. That's one of the criteria, it's not a guarantee but it is a criteria," he said.

Gatland said he had 25 members of his squad decided with half a dozen potential captains in mind.

He hinted that Sam Warburton, the former Wales captain who relinquished the captaincy in a bid to lift his game, was still a consideration.

"He's a different captain to other players, he leads by example, doesn't say a lot and he's had that experience and he's in contention, definitely," he said.

The chief rugby writer at The Times, Owen Slot said Tadhg Furlong of Ireland and England's Owen Farrell were the contenders for captain based on their certainty as starters. Neither has a lot of captaincy experience, an important factor Gatland has said.

Of other contenders Slot said none of the potential starting hookers was in form.

"The most consistent hooker throughout the Six Nations was Ken Owens of Wales. The other leading contender is Jamie George, who has spent his entire Test career coming off the bench to replace Hartley – totalling 17 caps, all off the bench," he said.

Slot said another consideration Gatland faced was the type of player he wanted at centre. Much would depend on whether Gatland preferred to play Owen Farrell at second five-eighths which would necessitate a ball carrier at centre. Contenders were Ireland's Robbie Henshaw and England's Ben Te'o.

Welshman Jonathan Davies was more of an all-rounder offering different options while steppers from England Jonathan Joseph and Elliot Day, players who would rather dance around traffic than plough through it, might be the choice. Joseph helped his cause by being an outstanding defender.