Warren Gatland praises Rory Best's leadership abilities

The Irish international could well be the new favourite for the Lions' captaincy

Rory Best, Ireland, New Zealand

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

After receiving another red card (and likely another ban) after his "tackle" on Sean O'Brien for Northampton on Friday night, Dylan Hartley started his weekend off on a bad foot. 

Hartley will have a European Professional Club Rugby hearing next week, and will learn whether or not he will miss any Six Nations action with his team, but Eddie Jones certainly looked very frustrated with his captain when the camera cut to him immediately after the player was given his marching orders by Jérôme Garcès. 

That incident won't have helped his chances of getting the nod as Lions captain, but he was dealt another blow this weekend after Warren Gatland heaped praise on Rory Best, leading to speculation that the Ulster man is now the favourite for the position.

"There is no doubt Rory Best has done a really good job. He looks comfortable," Gatland said. "We didn’t take him initially in 2013 because we felt his line-out throwing was not good enough. He has obviously improved enormously."

Galtand also rubbed salt into the wound for Hartley, namechecking him specifically in his praise for Best, stating that the Ireland international had shown his quality against him in the past. 

"He is scrummaging well, he is experienced. He has grown into that leadership role," Gatland told The Telegraph. "There is a lot to admire about Rory Best. I go back to a couple of years ago when Ulster went over to Northampton and he gave Dylan Hartley a bit of a lesson in forward play and hooking that day. It was another level."

Rory Best lead Ireland to a famous win over the All Blacks in Chicago, as well as a win over Australia in the November series this year. While England have been on a record-breaking run, Hartley's poor disciplinary record (he has already served 54 weeks of bans in his career to date) will be a worry for both club and country as he awaits a verdict on his most recent transgression.