O’Connell backs Itoje for Lions starting spot

9:14 AM GMT

Ireland legend Paul O’Connell has backed England’s Maro Itoje to start for the British & Irish Lions against the All Blacks on their 2017 tour.

O’Connell featured three tours for the Lions, won seven Test caps for and captained them on their 2009 trip to South Africa. With 108 Ireland caps to his name, he is one of the most experienced locks in the world and feels Saracens’ Itoje is in the box seat to start for the famous tourists.

Talking to the Daily Mail, O’Connell said of Itoje: “He’s phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal.

“He is the full package; a great player and an amazing athlete. He is already an amazing leader and he is probably playing at the best club in England when it comes to coaching. He has come into the England team at a time when they are going really, really well and being well coached.

“I hope he remains injury-free, because that is the killer when you are such a good player.

“They all want you to play as much as possible and when you get injured, they want you back as quick as possible. Injuries can dull your ability, so I hope he can avoid them.”

And O’Connell feels Joe Launchbury is the ideal candidate to partner Itoje, saying the Wasps man is “brilliant over the ball, a really good carrier and a good lineout man”.

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/17776902/paul-oconnell-backs-maro-itoje-british-irish-lions-starting-spot

O’Connell backs Itoje for Lions starting spot

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