Paul O'Connell tips Dylan Hartley as British and Irish Lions captain

By Tom EnglishBBC Scotland
Dylan Hartley
Under Dylan Hartley's captaincy, England became the first side to complete a 3-0 series win in Australia since South Africa in 1971

England's Dylan Hartley would be a great leader for next summer's British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, says ex-Lions captain Paul O'Connell.

Hartley has been banned for a total of 54 weeks in his career for incidents, including gouging, biting and punching.

But Ireland legend O'Connell says the England skipper can cope with leading the side in the country of his birth.

"It might be tough on Dylan but he seems to have learned from all of the scrapes he's been in," said O'Connell.

"I think he'd be a great captain."

The Northampton hooker's sending-off in the 2013 Premiership final cost him his place in Warren Gatland's Lions squad to tour Australia.

Paul O'Connell
Paul O'Connell was also part of the 2013 Lions side that won in Australia

But O'Connell, who played 108 times for his country and seven times for the Lions before his retirement last year, believes the way Hartley skippered England to a Six Nations Grand Slam and a historic series whitewash away in Australia makes him the prime candidate.

"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," the 36-year-old added as part of an interview with BBC Radio 5 live that coincides with the release of his autobiography, The Battle.

"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's first Lions tour was in the team's 3-0 defeat by New Zealand in 2005 and the Irishman remembers it as a "lonely" tour.

"It doesn't get any harder than a trip to New Zealand," he said. "On that tour, we were rooming on our own and I had a balcony overlooking the harbour.

"I don't know what I was doing, but I used to have the odd cigarette, sitting on my own. I was worried that I'd smell of cigarettes so I started brushing my teeth.

"I decided that if I could get anything out of the tour I might have white teeth."