England playmaker Owen Farrell is world class, and among the contenders to captain the British and Irish Lions on this year's tour of New Zealand, coach Warren Gatland says.
Farrell, who plays flyhalf for Saracens and inside centre for England, Wales flanker Sam Warburton and England captain Dylan Hartley were all in the mix to lead the Lions, Gatland has told Sky Sports News.
The New Zealander, who names his squad on April 19, said the captaincy had become a media "obsession", but Farrell's flexibility meant he filled at least one of the criteria - being a likely starter in the Tests.
"I know his name has been discussed," Gatland said. "The beauty of him at the moment is that he can cover two positions, 10 and 12.
"He's a great goal-kicker. I think the way he has developed in the last three or four years, he is absolutely world class and I'm probably not giving too much away by saying he has a good chance of being selected."
Gatland said Farrell, who came off the bench in the deciding third Lions Test in Australia four years ago, apart from one performance against Italy, had excelled in the Six Nations.
"He's a fighter, he's a winner and I just really admire the way he has developed," added Gatland. "He is potentially in the mix to discuss as well."
Warburton, who skippered the Lions on the triumphant 2013 tour Down Under, did not lead Wales in the latest Six Nations, but the flanker was among the tournament's top performers and Gatland said he was under consideration.
"He's definitely someone in contention, but the first thing for us - and there seems to be an obsession with the captaincy - is to pick the squad first and then look at potentially who can captain the Lions," he said.
"For me, the first thing ... if you're picking a Lions starting XV tomorrow, I'd look at it and go, 'Do I think that person's likely to start?'"
England failed to win consecutive Grand Slams or set a top-tier record for consecutive wins due to Saturday's defeat by Ireland, but Hartley did lead them to successive Six Nations titles.
"You have to look back beyond the weekend and the disappointment England had, he has done a fantastic job," the former Wales manager added.
England coach Eddie Jones said he expected Hartley to continue leading the side, despite persistent calls for his demotion.
"Dylan is an outstanding captain and does a super job. There's no reason why he won't continue to do a super job," he said.