After much pre-Six Nations debate (and plenty during) as to the validity of Dylan Hartley, Alun Wyn Jones and Rory Best as candidates for Lions captaincy, Sam Warburton emerged from the competition as a shoo-in after a fine campaign despite Wales' fifth-place finish.
It's understood that Warburton's decision to stand down as Wales captain was made with this summer's Lions Tour in mind; Warburton agreed with Gatland that he'd focus solely on returning to the form which saw him named Lions captain four years ago, and that Alun Wyn Jones taking over as skipper would unburden the then-struggling Blues flanker. Warburton remained Gatland's first choice for captaincy in New Zealand, and produced a timely string of fine displays in February and March.
However, Simon Thomas of Wales Online has reported that Warburton has suffered a low grade medial strain to his knee, which will put him out for approximately six weeks.
Scans following the injury Warburton suffered playing for the Blues against Ulster in the PRO12 last weekend showed ligament damage, and so the former Wales captain will be out until the end of May. The Lions are scheduled to depart for New Zealand on May 29th.
All going to plan, Warburton should be fit for the start of the tour, but it's hardly ideal preparation for the leading candidate for Lions captaincy, who'll be required to rediscover his match fitness during some midweek games before the Tests.
It remains to be seen as to whether the 28-year-old will still be named captain by Gatland, but considering this recent resurgence in Warburton's form has been the pair's goal since last year, the hunch would be that Wales' head coach won't change his mind now.