Top British rugby commentator Stuart Barnes has warned the Lions against picking Sam Warburton as captain for the 10-match New Zealand tour.

An expected 38-man squad is named on Thursday and despite a leg injury, and having been dropped as Wales captain, Warburton is favoured to retain the leadership job he had in Australia four years ago.

Barnes, writing in The Times, said Warburton had the wrong sort of game for the three-test series, where Warren Gatland's tourists would need ball carrying forwards rather than a tackling dynamo. He did not specify his captaincy pick.

Barnes wrote: "Warburton is a fine player. A good man. These are not the issues. It is the nature of his game.


"Four years ago I suggested that the injury he suffered during his heroic effort in the second test defeat by Australia in Melbourne would benefit the Lions in the decider, despite the flanker undoubtedly being the outstanding player on the pitch.

"Essentially he is a destructive force of nature. In 2013 he delivered a defensive masterclass in Melbourne but it did not stop Australia from levelling the series."

The former England and Lions No. 10 said the key to Ireland's victory over New Zealand in Chicago last year was "ball retention and carrying...most critical was the ability to maintain the ball, maintain momentum and keep possession from the plethora of wonderful attacking Kiwis."

The higher the Lions tackle count, the bigger the margin of defeat will be against New Zealand, he predicted.

The Lions had strong ball carrying options, such as Ireland's CJ Stander, and Barnes said Warburton would best serve the cause as a leader of the midweek team.

"Warburton is not a natural with the ball in hand, not a comfortable ball carrier. What worked in the Six Nations is irrelevant at a higher level," said Barnes.