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Gatland hints what he will do with Lions captaincy with AWJ back

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Warren Gatland has hinted that the Lions tour captaincy will be taken from Conor Murray and given back original skipper Alun Wyn Jones after he rejoins the squad on Thursday in Cape Town following his miracle recovery from the shoulder dislocation he suffered versus Japan on June 26. Jones was ruled out of the tour within an hour of the full-time whistle at Edinburgh, leaving Gatland to call up Adam Beard as a second row replacement and appoint Murray as the tour captain.

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However, Murray only finally got to skipper the Lions on Wednesday night in what was their fourth match on South African soil and just his first start out there. Gatland had given the matchday captaincy to Stuart Hogg, Iain Henderson and Jamie George in the games versus the Sigma Lions and the Sharks (two matches) and it was only against South Africa A that Murray finally got to lead the team out.

He had been chosen to do in last week’s first encounter with the Sharks in Johannesburg but he was ruled out as a close contact where a virus crisis enveloped the Lions squad, leaving the scrum-half waiting another week before he finally got to captain on a matchday. 

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In the meantime, it was announced that Jones had been recalled to the Lions squad just 18 days after he suffered his shoulder dislocation in Scotland and Gatland has now admitted talks will be had about the captaincy after Jones arrives in Cape Town on Thursday.  

“We will have a conversation with Conor and Alun Wyn when Alun Wyn gets out here and we will talk about that,” said Gatland in his pre-match TV interview on Wednesday night.

“There is a good chance that Alun Wyn will resume as tour captain and I think Conor will be pretty happy with that because none of us expected he [Jones] was going to be able to make the recovery to come out. We will just have a chat with both guys. They are both extremely diligent and professional and we will just make the best decision for the squad.”

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Gatland insisted that Jones was coming to South Africa with a view to playing against the Springboks in the three-game Test series which starts on July 24, not to provide some type of background support to the squad, but he won’t be available for selection for this Saturday’s final preparation match versus the Stormers. “He wouldn’t be coming out here unless he was coming to play. In his mind, he feels he is back fully fit, so he will arrive here tomorrow [Thursday] and will be back in training on Monday and in contention for Test selection.”

Gatland was speaking after the Lions were forced into two late selection changes versus South Africa A, Liam Williams replacing Josh Adams and Owen Farrell coming in at out-half for Dan Biggar. Adams’ partner had gone into labour back in Wales and he was following the birth via Zoom while Biggar was excluded as an injury precaution. 

“He [Biggar] just rolled his ankle slightly in the captain’s run yesterday [Tuesday]. If we really pushed him he could have played tonight but it wasn’t worth the risk and Owen Farrell has recovered from the slight abdominal strain so he comes in at 10.”

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Gatland hints what he will do with Lions captaincy with AWJ back

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