Paul O’Connell On Who He Thinks Should Captain The British & Irish Lions In 2021

Confrontational.

Former Ireland and Munster lock Paul O’Connell knows a thing or two about captaining the British and Irish Lions having skippered them on their tour of South Africa back in 2009.

The Lions, unfortunately, lost that series 2-1 but O’Connell was praised for his captaincy with Wales legend Martyn Williams among those who were in complete “awe” of the Irishman.

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In terms of next year, O’Connell reckons the Lions will need a captain who is “confrontational” against the Boks because he feels in order to beat them you really need to go out there and “take them on.”

“When you go to South Africa you certainly need someone confrontational because that is their DNA,” O’Connell said on the Will Greenwood podcast on Sky Sports.

“You have to have a tactic to beat South Africa, to get around them and to try and trick them but you certainly have to take them on as well.

“In the scrum, in the maul – because if they begin to get on top of you in the confrontational areas, then the belief begins to grow as we saw in the World Cup final against England.”

So who comes to mind? The first name that was suggested by the panel was Maro Itoje – but while O’Connell rates the lock very highly, he’s not entirely sure what kind of leadership qualities Itoje has.

“He (Itoje) is certainly the type of player you want playing against South Africa,” added O’Connell.

“He is a world-class athlete and a phenomenal second-row forward and I like watching him play. He is always pushing the limits and I am surprised he does not give away more penalties than he does.

“He is always pushing at the rucks, around the offside line and is brilliant at collapsing mauls. He is a real pleasure to watch from that regard.

“But I do not know what he is like in the dressing room, what he is like in terms of leadership and leading a group of men.”

One man though, who O’Connell reckons could be the man to lead the Lions next year is current England captain Owen Farrell, who he thinks has “that abrasive attitude” that could be beneficial.

“I know a lot of people feel that you need a second rower or a front-row forward captaining the side when you take on SA, but a player like Owen Farrell has that abrasive attitude as well,” O’Connell said.

“He is also very experienced now in terms of taking on SH teams and beating them. He has obviously also had that tough experience against SA in the world cup, so he is someone who springs to mind.”