O'Connell tips Hartley to captain Lions

O'Connell tips Hartley to captain Lions

Former British and Irish Lions captain Paul O'Connell believes Dylan Hartley should skipper the team in New Zealand next summer.

The Northampton Saints hooker has been captain of England since Eddie Jones' appointment as coach at the end of last year, and he has led the team to a Six Nations Grand Slam and a historic series whitewash in Australia since being handed the honour.

Hartley appears to have now matured after being dogged by disciplinary issues during the majority his career, including missing out on a place in the last Lions squad after being sent-off in the 2013 Aviva Premiership final.

Former Ireland international O'Connell, who captained the Lions in 2009, believes Hartley is an ideal candidate to skipper Warren Gatland's team next summer, as he believes the 30-year-old New Zealand-born player has learned from his past discrepancies.

"Dylan's been through all the ups and downs and he seems to be in a very good place in terms of how he plays and how he leads the team now," O'Connell told BBC Radio. "I played with loads of guys that were in plenty of scrapes but it turns out that they are the guys you 100% want in your team."

O'Connell knows the Lions will face a tough test in New Zealand, as they have not won a tour in the country since they secured a 2-1 series triumph in 1971.

"It doesn't get any harder than a trip to New Zealand," he added.

The Lions will kick-off their 2017 tour against a Provincial Unions XV on June 3, with the first Test against the All Blacks set to take place in Auckland on June 24.