O'Connell tipped to lead Lions

2009-04-20 10:39

Dan Retief

Johannesburg - Irish and Munster lock Paul O’Connell is being tipped to be named captain of the 2009 British and Irish Lions when the touring side is announced by coach Ian McGeechan in London on Tuesday.

Much of the speculation surrounding the team announcement has focussed on the likely captain, O’Connell or Brian O’Driscoll (captain when the Lions toured New Zealand in 205) but it seems the big forward has edged in front.

McGeechan has stated his preference for a forward and Test certainty to lead the side and O’Connell perfectly fits the bill.

And if, indeed, he is handed the reins it will mean that the last four British and Irish sides to tour South Africa would have been led by lock forwards – Willie John McBride (1974), Bill Beaumont (1980), Martin Johnson (1997 and now possibly O’Connell.

O'Connell, 29, has played 62 Tests for Ireland and three for the 2005 Lions against New Zealand.

Tuesday's squad announcement will also be notable for the omission of several key rugby figures including Gavin Henson and Jonny Wilkinson. Lions manager Gerald Davies has confirmed that players currently injured will not be considered. "If they are not fit, they are not coming," Davies said. England's Mike Tindall, recovering from knee damage, could also miss out.

Davies, who played five Tests for the Lions in 1968 and 1971, also indicated that there would be few surprises in the 35 or 36-man squad. "We have had an open mind on players who didn't make their countries' Six Nations squads, but I can't imagine we will be going outside of those squads," he said. "It is fair to assume that the Lions will come from the Six Nations squads."

SuperSport will broadcast the announcement of the Lions squad live from London at 14:30 on SS1 on Tuesday.