Although there might not usually be a lengthy shortlist of credible candidates for the Lions captaincy, rarely has the field been so narrow ahead of a Six Nations Championship.
At the end of last season Dylan Hartley seemed to be leading a field that included; Sam Warburton, Alun Wyn Jones, and Maro Itoje. Indeed, the England hooker appeared to be the most likely candidate for the captaincy following England’s Grand Slam triumph and series whitewash over Australia.
However, the hooker’s chances of being handed the role all but evaporated after Hartley’s strike on Sean O’Brien during the Northampton Saints’ Champions Cup defeat at the hands of Leinster.
Simultaneously, Rory Best’s performances with Ireland catapulted him into contention after Ireland recorded victories over New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
It therefore appeared as though Best had replaced Hartely as one of the main contenders. However, the possibility of Sam Warburton retaining the captaincy remained likely, particularly as Warren Gatland had spoken about the need for continuity.
However, after the BBC confirmed that the Cardiff Blues flanker would step down as Wales captain, the likelihood of the 28 year-old retaining the role also diminished.
Consequently, Rory Best has now emerged as the favourite to lead the Lions at 13/8, a scenario that seemed highly unlikely 12 months ago.
With the Six Nations yet to play, the Irish hooker is no shoo-in, as Alun Wyn Jones has moved from 9/4 to 7/4 since the Warburton news broke.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena