Dylan Hartley slipping in Lions captaincy stakes
Kiwi-born Dylan Hartley chances of captaining the British & Irish Lions to New Zealand are waning with three former skippers now questioning his credentials.
Hartley has helped lead England to 16 consecutive test wins but some aren't convinced he's the best hooker while there continue to be reservations about his long record of poor discipline that struck again in the leadup to the current Six Nations.
Former Lions skippers Gavin Hastings (1993 to New Zealand), Martin Johnson (1997 to South Africa) and Brian O'Driscoll (2005 to New Zealand) all believe new Wales captain Alun-Wyn Jones is the man for this year's quest to beat the All Blacks over three tests.
"I think Jones is out on his own. Dylan Hartley's gone backwards a wee bit," Scotsman Hastings told the Daily Mail.
"I think Jones is showing his characteristics as a leader of men. He's a guy that's been around the block more than once. No-one else (is in the frame)."
Irishman O'Driscoll agreed: "The front-runner has to be Alun-Wyn Jones, he captained the Lions in the final game in 2013, he's respected in New Zealand and you have to anticipate he's going to be a test starter. He certainly would be on my team."
England great Johnson also felt Jones appeared to be the best option in a tight leadership race presented to Lions coach Warren Gatland.
"All four nations' captains have a chance, though Greig (Laidlaw of Scotland) is out of the tournament which is unfortunate," Johnson told BBC Wales Sport.
"You've got two hookers (Hartley and Ireland's Rory Best), but I thought Jones played really well so maybe he'll have his nose slightly in front.
"He's an experienced player, been out there before, playing pretty well."