Ronan O'Gara believes Conor Murray's in-game decision making will define his time as Lions captain.
Munster scrum-half Murray was announced as Alun Wyn-Jones' replacement as Lions captain after the Welsh lock was forced out of the tour of South Africa with a dislocated shoulder in the sides first warmup match against Japan.
Despite never captaining Ireland and only captaining Munster on several occasions, Lions' coach Warren Gatland promoted Murray to the position, leaving Owen Farrell to question his position in the starting fifteen.
Speaking on Off The Ball's Wednesday Night Rugby, O'Gara said Murray will have a lot to deal with both on and off the pitch.
"His biggest challenge will be if they go one-nil down in the test series. They [the media] will go after him then. That's what happens; they try to dissect the nations, and he'll be under the pump big time."
Support From The Squad
O'Gara added that Murray will have to lean on the other senior players for support but will ultimately have to lead the tour on the pitch.
"A lot of has changed in the years since I stopped playing, in that there's a lot of emphasis on the senior players' group and the leadership team, so he'll need to weigh heavily on them because if he tries to overforce his hand, he'll forget his basic duties which is playing the best he can That is what real leadership looks like."
The Final Say
O'Gara concluded that Murray's level head in high-intensity situations will serve him well in South Africa, but his ability to be the final voice on this pitch will be a challenge for the rookie captain.
"His biggest positive for me would be his composure under pressure. What is remarkably refreshing about Conor Murray is his capacity to remain open to learning and to take on new ideas. The speed of his thought process is very advanced.
"His biggest challenge will probably be the tactical decisions in terms of having to overrule your kicker at times in terms of going for the posts.
"How he makes decisions is so interesting. The body language Conor Murray shows without saying anything can instil fear or doubt in the kicker's mind. If there are times where you are low on confidence as a kicker and depending on what your captain says to you, it can make it worse."
"If you get a question of 'how are you feeling ROG', that already puts a little bit of doubt into your mind, as opposed to 'take three ROG, knock it over, we'll go again from half-way.'"
Despite O'Gara's glowing praise for Murray's decision making in-game, O'Gara admitted that he still has reservations about Murray simply due to his lack of experience captaining a test match.
"I would have to [have reservations] because of the mammoth step up. There are the times captaining Munster but then going into the Lion's den, excuse the pun, every decision at test level will be new to him."
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