Two-time British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has said it is “unfair” to ask him to name his captain this year as there are some “fantastic candidates”.

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The Welshman recently backed England’s Maro Itoje to captain Warren Gatland’s Lions this year in South Africa, choosing the Englishman over compatriot Alun Wyn Jones as he is guaranteed to start.

“I have gone back and forth with Maro and Alun Wyn Jones,” the former Wales captain said. “Alun Wyn will be up there. I’m sure Alun Wyn will captain games on tour but I would probably go Maro Itoje.

“The reason I say Maro as captain is because he is a dead cert and it’s between Alun Wyn and James Ryan to battle it out for that No5 shirt.

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“I don’t think he will pick a back as captain, so the other player who has the leadership experience he will want is Maro. If Alun Wyn is captain, though, you know you will be in safe hands.”

Warburton however said on Twitter he does not like being asked for one Lions captain, while naming the other possible candidates to lead the team this year. The list included Wales captain Jones, England captain Owen Farrell, Scotland captain Stuart Hogg, Ireland captain Johnny Sexton and Wales hooker Ken Owens, who are all possible captaincy candidates other than Itoje.

“I always dislike being asked for one Lions captain which I think is unfair. The reality is amongst four nations we have fantastic candidates in AWJ, Itoje, Farrell, Hogg, Sexton and Owens. Having played with and against, and knowing each off the field – all would be superb.”

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There will be a number of captains throughout the Lions tour given the volume of matches. In fact, both the 2013 and 2017 tours saw different captains for the Test matches, not just the midweek matches.

An injury to Warburton in the third Test against Australia in 2013 meant Jones led the Lions to victory. It was the same case four years later in the first Test against the All Blacks, which opened the door for Peter O’Mahony to skipper the side.

Should a similar situation arise this year, Warburton is confident that Gatland will have an abundance of leaders in his squad to call upon.

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