Who will captain the British & Irish Lions?

Every four years one of the hottest topics leading up to the British & Irish Lions squad announcement is over who will be picked to lead the tourists on their latest trip south. On the Lions' last trip to New Zealand in 2005, Brian O'Driscoll was the man picked and he was then followed in 2009 by his Ireland teammate Paul O'Connell. Back in 2013 Warren Gatland turned to Sam Warburton as he captained the Lions to a 2-1 series victory against the Wallabies.

Various figures from the world of rugby have had their say on who should lead the tourists to New Zealand this time around and here we round up the range of views around the Lions captaincy debate.

Sam Warburton

"Sam Warburton has become the bookies favourite -- and rightly so in my opinion -- for the title after some impressive performances over the past couple of months. With some question marks over his future in the Wales team, he answered his critics in emphatic style with a big tournament, in his less favoured position of blindside flanker." -- Brian O'Driscoll in the Independent

"I have heard talk about a tour captain, but for me, it has to be somebody who has been in strong form and Sam Warburton has put in some big performances for Wales during the Six Nations. The captain and coach have to get on well; they have got to have an open and honest relationship, there has got to be respect and they have got to be on the same wavelength in terms of the rugby the Lions will be playing on the field. When I chose my captain, he was someone I not only respected, but trusted as well. Sam ticks all those boxes." -- Sir Ian McGeechan on Wales Online

"Look, I think it's important to lead from the front, I think to lead with your actions as much as possible. I think Martin Johnson certainly did that, he was an amazing player. Sam Warburton certainly does that, he absolutely ends himself whenever he plays for Wales and he did the same when he played for the Lions. "I mean, the amount of work he gets through, you need someone like that, someone who the players can follow in their example." -- Paul O'Connell on Sky Sports.

Alun Wyn Jones

"As the tournament [Six Nations] has gone on I just thought Alun Wyn Jones has played really well. Right now if you're picking a Test team I'd pick him in the second row and I'd pick him as captain. That would by my choice." -- Martin Johnson

"Alun Wyn Jones, Alun Wyn Jones and then Alun Wyn Jones. Alun Wyn Jones in that third Test [in 2013] was inspiring, he was intelligent, and he was an outstanding leader. All the mess that went on about Brian O'Driscoll, and all the fuss about O'Driscoll being dropped from the team, Alun Wyn Jones got that team, he made it into his." -- Stuart Barnes on Sky Sports

"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." -- Gavin Hastings

Rory Best

"I thought he played very well around the field, some turnovers, his set-piece work, obviously his captaincy and getting the team in the right place. Rory's got the experience, it's the right time in his career. I still think Alun Wyn Jones probably, for me, has his nose ahead in terms of captaincy." -- Martin Johnson

"Rory is a phenomenal leader and he has the right attitude. He has already proved his credentials for Ireland in massive wins against New Zealand and England in the past few months. Rory can perform on the pitch, but he can also galvanise the squad and get them to perform to their best. He is also a great ambassador and can handle the media. He has already got the t-shirt and has nothing else to prove." -- Willie Anderson in Belfast Live

"Rory Best would be a good captain, he is playing well in the Championship." -- Shane Williams

Dylan Hartley

"I think [Eddie] Jones is out on his own. Dylan Hartley's gone backwards a wee bit. I think Jones is showing his characteristics as a leader of men." -- Gavin Hastings

"I think he would be a great candidate. He has clearly done a good job leading England - he has got the ability to develop relationships with people - and therefore he would be a great candidate for the Lions job." -- Eddie Jones

Owen Farrell

"Martin Johnson [Rugby World Cup winning captain] always said that all he had to do was toss a coin and then he would trust the lads behind him. But the captain has to look the opponent in the eye and look you back in the eye and you have to see a winner. When you looked at Martin Johnson you saw a winner. Whatever you think about Owen Farrell as a rugby player, when you look in his eye, there's only one thing looking back at you: a winner." -- Will Greenwood in Daily Express.

Conor Murray

"He will be a first-choice, he is really enjoying his rugby at the moment and he is an outstanding candidate in my view." -- Shane Horgan

"I don't know if Conor would like to be the captain. He's a very down to earth guy and of course the captaincy is a great honour. I haven't had discussions with him along those lines. I've only known him for seven months. "Certainly with his quality as a player and with his stature and aura, (but) I'm not sure he would want that." -- Rassie Erasmus

"Conor would make a good captain. He is in a pivotal position there and playing in great form. There is the probability of having his best mate Jonathan Sexton playing outside him as well. So he does have captaincy qualities and the Irish forwards will certainly vouch for that." -- Shane Williams