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Shane Williams column: Inspiring Alun Wyn Jones my man to lead Lions

Alun Wyn JonesAlun Wyn Jones embodies everything that the British & Irish Lions will need to succeed in New Zealand next summer and would be my pick to skipper the tour.

Now that Warren Gatland has been confirmed as head coach, we all now look to who will be his right-hand man as captain.

He has three very different characters to choose from in Jones, Sam Warburton and Dylan Hartley.

Hartley deserves to be linked with the role after the job he has done with England and Warburton is now favourite given his strong working relationship with Gatland. But I would love to see Jones handed the honour.

Like Warburton, he has been there and done it. Unlike Hartley, Alun Wyn knows exactly what the Lions are about after tours to South Africa and Australia.

And he knows what it means to lead out the team in a Test match as he did in that 2013 series decider in Sydney.

We all saw at the final whistle how much that moment meant to him. But what struck me when I met up with him and a few of the other lads the following day was that he never once mentioned being captain.

He was so chuffed to have been part of the team, to win the game and win the series, but it was never about him being captain. That is Alun Wyn for you.

There is no BS with him. He tells it straight and can be pretty grumpy at times, but he doesn’t make a big fuss or do cartwheels when he wins games.

He just gets on with the job and does his talking on the pitch. He leads from the front and will push himself until you have to almost drag him off the pitch.

He plays every game as if it’s a Grand Slam decider, whether it’s against Zebre or the All Blacks and it’s incredibly inspiring to those around.

He’s exactly the same in training. He has to be first to every drill and trains with exactly the same intensity as he plays. He’s actually a complete pain in the arse in training and there were times with Wales when we had to tell him to calm down before he takes out one of his own players. But in New Zealand, that’s exactly the focus and determination the Lions will need.

Sam is a great choice as well because he is a safe pair of hands and is a big-game player.

Warburton has the perfect temperament to be captain having grown-up with the responsibility since taking the Wales armband in 2011.

Gatland knows he can trust Warburton to handle the pressure and the incredible attention and focus that comes with being a Lions captain given the fantastic job he did in 2013.

As for Hartley, I think the jury is still out.

There’s no doubt that being appointed captain by Eddie Jones has been the making of him.  His rugby has improved with the responsibility and led England to a Grand Slam and then a remarkable series whitewash over the Wallabies in Australia.

But there is always going to be a question-mark over his temperament on the pitch and that’s a headache Gatland doesn’t need. After all, he missed the last Lions tour because of a ban.

So this is going to be a big season for Hartley to prove he really has changed his spots.

There is a lot of time to go and who knows, there could be outsiders considered, but only if something bizarre happens during the autumn internationals and Six Nations.

Greig Laidlaw is rated by Scotland and is certainly useful as a goal-kicking scrum-half. But I can’t see him getting in the Test team ahead of Rhys Webb, Ben Youngs or Conor Murray.

Similarly Rory Best does a great job with Ulster and Ireland. He has a wealth of experience but is not guaranteed his starting place.

I’m a bit old-fashioned but as a player I always wanted my captain to be involved in as many games as possible. That’s impossible on a tour but they have to be first-choice for the Tests and big provincial games.

And right now, Alun Wyn, Warburton and Hartley would all start in my Test team.

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