Farrell hails Lions leadership depth

Lions defence coach Andy Farrell has backed Peter O'Mahony for the captaincy should Sam Warburton not be passed fit to start the first Test against New Zealand. 

Warburton is battling for full match fitness after ankle trouble and may only take his place on the bench for Saturday's highly-anticipated opener in Auckland.

O'Mahony is favourite to lead the Lions if Warburton is ruled out and Farell has put his weight behind the Munster skipper's captaincy claims.

Asked how he would feel if O'Mahony led the Lions against the All Blacks, Farrell told Sky Sports: "I'd be more than comfortable.

"I'd be more than comfortable with a number of players being able to do that.

"To be honest, it'd be the easiest team to captain because there's so many leaders out there.

"What the guys who have captained the side so far have realised is they don't have to be vocal all the time, because there's always people that's helping them out and I think the balance has been great so far."

Meanwhile, Farrell has no qualms with Jaco Peyper officiating the Eden Park opener despite the South African referee coming in for criticism for his handling of New Zealand's 21-9 victory over Ireland in Dublin on November 19.

Jaco Peyper will officiate Saturday's first Test at Eden Park, with Farrell insisting the Lions are happy with the South African referee's approach.

Peyper issued no more than a penalty for Sam Cane's head-high tackle on Robbie Henshaw, that saw the centre being stretchered off the field, and Malakai Fekitoa only received a yellow card for his dangerous tackle on Simon Zebo.

But Farrell insisted the Lions are satisfied with the refereeing teams appointed for the Test series.

"I think we have great officials going forward and I have no problem with that," said Farrell. "Fair play to the All Blacks – they found a way to win (against Ireland in Dublin in November).

"People questioned their character going into that game, after the Chicago game, and that's what is great about a three-match series. You don't know which team are going to turn up on Saturday, in the second Test and the third Test, and we have to be ready for it all."

Meanwhile, Farrell has agreed with Lions boss Gatland's views that the officials need to keep an eye on the All Blacks' illegal blocking lines.

Asked if the All Blacks receive special treatment from referees, Farrell said: "You can't say that. Whether they are cuter than anyone else – that has to be a plus for them.

"They know what they want to achieve and we can't get into what goes on with the referees. It's a distraction.

"We have to highlight to our players what to expect and how to overcome it. I think they are very smart in how they play the game.

"There are all sorts of subtle movements within the game and it's up to the officials to pick that up. It's clear and obvious when you see it happening in the game and we trust the officials to make the right call at the right time. It's nothing new at all but we just want a fair game."