Dylan Hartley's chances of leading the British and Irish Lions this summer have "gone backwards" with Alun Wyn Jones likely to captain the tourists, according to former Lions skipper Gavin Hastings.
Hastings, who led the Lions on their 1993 tour of New Zealand, is one of three ex-Lions captains along with Martin Johnson and Brian O'Driscoll to back Jones for the role against the world champions.
Jones has only recently become Wales skipper, last month replacing Sam Warburton - the previous Lions captain. However, with Warburton injured, the lock led the Lions in the decisive and victorious third Test against Australia four years ago.
Hartley has led England to 16 straight wins and, despite his poor disciplinary record for club side Northampton, had been touted for the Lions captaincy prior to the current RBS 6 Nations.
However Hartley has been substituted before the hour-mark in both England's 2017 Six Nations matches as he continues a comeback from injury, with replacement hooker Jamie George outshining him each time.
Hastings said: "I think Jones is out on his own. Dylan Hartley's gone backwards a wee bit.
"I think Jones is showing his characteristics as a leader of men.
"He's a guy that's been around the block more than once. No-one else (is in the frame)."
O'Driscoll, who led the Lions on the 2005 tour of New Zealand, believes Jones' likelihood to start in the Tests is a strong part of his captaincy credentials.
O'Driscoll said: "The front-runner has to be Alun Wyn Jones, he captained the Lions in the final game in 2013, he's respected in New Zealand and you have to anticipate he's going to be a Test starter. He certainly would be on my team.
"Alun Wyn is probably the front-runner at the moment but there's lots to happen between now and the announcement of the squad."
Johnson, captain of the 1997 Test series victory over South Africa, puts Jones ahead of the other Home Nations skippers Hartley, Rory Best of Ireland and Scotland's Greig Laidlaw, who will miss the rest of the Six Nations with an ankle injury sustained against France on Sunday.
"All four nations' captains have a chance, though Greig is out of the tournament which is unfortunate," Johnson told BBC Wales Sport.
"You've got two hookers, but I thought Jones played really well so maybe he'll have his nose slightly in front.
"He's an experienced player, been out there before, playing pretty well."