Take a deep breath …

oconnellmud… before you consider the BBC website’s headline:

O’Connell handed Lions captaincy

Note that “handed”.

Paul O’Connell, the chief engineer running Ireland’s magnificent engine-room this season, earned his pick. Arguably, he is the finest forward in the Northern hemisphere. But, as the Beeb have it, he was merely “handed” the captainship.

The only alternative would be the mercurial Brian O’Driscoll, BOD or GOD himself. Now consider two things:

  • Who will be around next time?
  • What sort of campaign will be fought — yes, fought — in South Africa?

There are quite a few young players in this touring party: Ian McGeechan and whoever has been whispering in his ear have evidently looked to the future. At last someone has done so. Then again, this isn’t going to be an easy tour. No Lions tour is; but the bottom line is:

Lions scrum coach Graham Rowntree added: “It’s important that we took some physical animals. Because that’s what South Africa are.”

A good choice. On merit.

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