Rugby World Cup winner and former British and Irish Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward has said that he would ‘unquestionably opt for’ Alun Wyn Jones to skipper the tour of South Africa.

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Captaincy of the Lions appears to be a straight selection shoot-out between Welsh skipper Jones and England second row Maro Itoje, with Owen Farrell falling away as an option in the court of public opinion.

Woodward, despite being a huge fan of the Saracens lock, believes Alun Wyn Jones is the man for the job. Writing in his Mail on Sunday column, Woodward writes: “Of the two, I would unquestionably opt for the Wales skipper — which says everything about Jones as there is no bigger fan of Maro than me.

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“You must be an automatic starter in the Test team and there are actually very few such individuals. There were those who doubted Jones back in the autumn but he was a rejuvenated figure in the Six Nations, one of the best forwards in the tournament.

“Lions skippers must have the total respect of peers on and off the field and within the game generally because a Lions tour is a global marquee event in the rugby calendar and is followed by fans from every nation. Everything you say and do will be poured over by the media.”

One player to make selection easier for Gatland is Ben Youngs, who has let the Lions chief know that he won’t be making himself available for the tour.

“Whether or not I would have made the final cut, I’ll never know,” Youngs told the Daily Mail. “I’ve got two young children and my wife is heavily pregnant with the third. This summer I’ve got an opportunity to be with my family and my kids.

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“I have always loved the Lions. I’ll be cheering them on, and I wish everyone involved a healthy and successful tour.

“It’s not a decision that I’ve taken lightly, but it’s the best decision for my family.”

Gatland is set to name his 36-man squad and captain on Thursday.

RugbyPass Lions Fanzone Special: Join our special guests this Thursday at 12pm BST for live Lions squad reveal and reaction.

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