Lynagh believes O’Connell should lead Lions in Australia

Former Wallaby great says Munster man ticks all the right boxes

Former Australian great Michael Lynagh believes Paul O’Connell should captain the Lions this summer. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Former Australian great Michael Lynagh believes Paul O’Connell should captain the Lions this summer. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho


Australia great Michael Lynagh views Ireland’s Paul O’Connell as the best man to lead the British and Irish Lions this summer, but predicts that Warren Gatland will opt for Sam Warburton.

Bookmakers suspended betting on the captaincy after Warburton was backed heavily late last week and the Wales flanker is expected to be unveiled when the squad is announced in London on Tuesday.

O’Connell, who has missed most of the season with a back injury, became a genuine contender following an epic display for Munster against Harlequins in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

Lynagh, who played for the Wallabies in their 2-1 series defeat to Finlay Calder’s 1989 Lions, believes the 2009 skipper is the outstanding candidate.

“I guess the favourite is Warburton, but for me it has to be Paul O’Connell,” said Lynagh, speaking at today’s launch of Specsavers’ sponsorship of match officials for the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia.

“He’s done it before, he’s a big guy, an inspirational bloke, fresh because he hasn’t played much this season and is as fit as he’s ever been.

“From a political point of view you have Scottish, Welsh and English represented in the management and no Irish. Appointing O’Connell would balance things up.”

Lynagh subscribes to the view that for the first time a ‘tour captain’, who would not be guaranteed his place in the Test XV, should be chosen.

“I’d go down that route because it takes the pressure off who’s going to be a certainty in the team,” said Lynagh, who won 72 caps between 1984-1995.

“If he’s not playing well, do you drop the captain? If you pick a tour captain then he has to perform during the opening three weeks of the tour to get in the Test team. That would be interesting.”

Lynagh, who believes veteran George Smith will be recalled at openside, insists that the Lions’ best chance of winning their first Test series since 1997 is to overpower the smaller Wallabies.

However, he expects Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor to prove less physical but every bit as dangerous.

While there is a belief that the troubled but mercurial trio, who have repeatedly been involved in off-field controversies, should not start in the same XV, Lynagh insists they must play together.

“Cooper hasn’t proved that he’s too good to drop over the last couple of years, in fact he’s proved that he’s a difficult person to have in the team,” he said.

“But if he can prove he’s overcome that, a bit like a Kevin Pietersen, there’s room for him in the team at 10 and he can win games.

“He’s more mature now and doesn’t take as many risks, but they’re the risks that change games and series.

“While guys like him, Beale and O’Connor have issues, they’re very hard to defend against.

“All that’s important is that they’re in the team somewhere because they’re the type of players who can turn a game or a series.”

Sign In

Forgot Password?

Sign Up

The name that will appear beside your comments.

Have an account? Sign In

Forgot Password?

Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In or Sign Up

Thank you

You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.

Hello, .

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

Thank you for registering. Please check your email to verify your account.

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.