Paul O’Connell will be confirmed as Lions captain for the summer tour to South Africa at lunchtime on Tuesday.
Duncan Bech writes for PA Sport O’Connell arrived in London on Monday night after edging Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning captain Brian O’Driscoll in the race for the most prestigious job in British and Irish rugby.
The 29-year-old refused to answer questions upon touching down at Heathrow but will be presented to the media on Tuesday afternoon once the squad has been announced.
Becoming the 10th Irishman to lead a Lions tour, he follows in the footsteps of England’s Martin Johnson who was selected to captain the 1997 trip to South Africa despite not being national skipper at the time.
An aggressive ball-carrier and accomplished line-out operator, O’Connell is Europe’s most feared second row with his style inviting comparisons with Johnson.
He has led Ireland on four occasions, each time deputising for O’Driscoll, and was at the helm when Munster were crowned Heineken Cup champions last year.
O’Driscoll was heavily backed to reclaim the role he filled in New Zealand four years ago following a blockbusting RBS 6 Nations.
But a crucial insight into the way head coach Ian McGeechan was thinking was provided by his former Scotland coaching colleague and Lions legend Jim Telfer.
“Ian will go with O’Connell. O’Driscoll is an inspirational player, an outstanding player,” said Telfer
“But when I watch Ireland it looks to me as though O’Connell and (Ronan) O’Gara run the team.
“O’Driscoll doesn’t come across in the media as a hard b*****d. I know he does in the games, you couldn’t question that, but in public he’s very easy going.
“You want somebody to sit there grim-faced and mean. That’s what Johnson did.”
Any competition for the position outside of O’Driscoll has evaporated in recent weeks, Wales skipper Ryan Jones suffering a collapse in form that now even threatens his place in the squad.Tweet