Warburton could still lead Lions, says Jonathan Davies
Sam Warburton could lead the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand even if he loses the Wales captaincy to Alun Wyn Jones, says former Wales captain Jonathan Davies.
The flanker's six-year reign is set to end for the 2017 Six Nations.
"He could well still be the Lions captain, who knows, if he gets his place in the Welsh side," said Davies.
However, Davies has warned that being captain would not guarantee Warburton a starting place in the Test team.
Traditionally the Lions captain is selected prior to a tour but Davies says Gatland his "hard enough" to drop the tour captain from the Test match side.
Davies says Gatland proved his ruthless streak by controversially dropping Ireland legend Brian O'Driscoll from the final Test of their 2-1 series win against Australia in 2013.
"To win that Test series you have to have your best players, your form players in your side.
"And I think Warren is kind of hard enough (to drop his captain).
"Look, he dropped Brian O'Driscoll and Ireland hated Gatland and hated every Welshman who were interested in rugby at that time.
"So for me, they go there to win the Test series in New Zealand for the first time since '71 and then the captaincy won't be that much of an issue for Warren."
Hartley, Warburton, Best or Jones?
Davies agrees that Jones is a leading candidate to skipper the Lions, saying: "If you're picking it today, I think that Alun Wyn Jones has been absolutely outstanding.
Jones is assured of his Wales starting spot while Justin Tipuric is putting pressure on Warburton for the open-side role in a back-row pool that includes Bath's Taulupe Faletau and Gloucester's Ross Moriarty.
England skipper Dylan Hartley and Irish hooking rival Rory Best have also been backed for the Lions leadership role.
Ex-Wales and Lions flanker Martyn Williams says regardless of who leads Wales, Ospreys lock Jones should lead the Lions.
"You look around at the captains, if he is named as captain, Alun Wyn would be my captain regardless anyway for the British Lions," said Williams, who won 100 Wales caps and four more for the Lions.
"I think he's that sort of player. It would be his third tour, he's got all the experience in the world so if he does get the nod and Wales have a successful Six Nations then he is the stand-out candidate.
"We know sometimes (Lions coach) Warren Gatland thinks a little bit left-field so he might think a different way."