England World Cup winner backs Itoje for Lions captaincy

LEWIS MOODY HAS backed Maro Itoje to be named captain of the British and Irish Lions for the 2017 tour to New Zealand, making comparisons between the England lock and former skipper Martin Johnson.

Itoje, who plays his club rugby with Saracens, only made his senior international debut during this year’s Six Nations, helping Eddie Jones’ side to a first Grand Slam since 2003.

The 21-year-old was later named European Player of the Year as Sarries triumphed in the Premiership and Champions Cup and he is one of the hottest prospects in world rugby.

Sam Warburton captained the Lions on their victorious tour to Australia in 2013 and, following the announcement of Wales coach Warren Gatland as Lions chief for a second successive series, he is favourite to take on that role again.

Warburton would become only the second man to be named captain for two Lions tours, after Johnson, but Moody believes Itoje is in with a chance of being named skipper.

“An outside shot for me would be Maro Itoje,” Moody, a Rugby World Cup winner in 2003, said.

“On current form, hands down, he’s probably the best player we have in the home nations.

“Martin Johnson in 1997 came in there having not captained England before that tour. He was picked as captain because of the presence that he had and the way he was playing.

“If Maro keeps up his performances and stays in that sort of shape, I can actually see him being named as an outside shot for that captaincy.”

England forward Maro Itoje has made quite an impression this year. Source: David Davies

Moody, part of the squad that toured New Zealand in 2005, believes Gatland will have tough calls to make all over the pitch as the Lions seek a first win over the All Blacks since 1971.

“There are going to be some great debates out there,” he added. “Fly-half — where do Owen Farrell and George Ford fit into those plans for Gatland?

“You’ve got Mike Brown and Leigh Halfpenny [at fullback], Rob Kearney if he’s fit.

“You’ve got Billy Vunipola and Taulupe Faletau in the number eight position.

“There are tons of guys around at the minute who are vying for places.

“There’ll be some interesting debates had around the country, I have no doubt.”

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