Rory Best wants to captain Ireland
Ulster skipper Rory Best has said it would be a massive honour to be named Ireland's new captain.
With Paul O'Connell's Test career over after opting for a move to Toulon following the World Cup, Joe Schmidt will pick a new leader ahead of the opening Six Nations contest against Wales in February.
Best, who will be rested for Ulster's Pro12 encounter with Edinburgh at Kingspan tonight (7.35pm kick-off), is an obvious candidate to fill the void, along with Leinster's Jamie Heaslip who stepped in for O'Connell after his World Cup hamstring injury.
"Paul O'Connell is a talismanic leader and to follow him would be a massive honour," Best told Ulster Rugby Extra.
"There is a group Joe will choose from and whoever does take over will have a massive task.
"To work alongside Joe Schmidt in a coach-captain relationship would be great."
Rob Herring, who starts in place of Best tonight as one of seven changes to Les Kiss's side, has said Ireland's most capped hooker would make a fine national captain.
"Like I always say, Rory is the best hooker in Ireland at the moment," Herring said.
“I don’t think anyone would be surprised if he’s the next Irish captain.”
Best has never been named as Ireland’s permanent skipper but has stepped in for others on four previous occasions.
The first two instances came on the 2009 tour to North America against Canada and USA while the team’s front-liners were on the Lions tour to South Africa, and he later saw the side through their final pair of 2012 Six Nations fixtures when both Brian O’Driscoll and O’Connell were absent.
He was named as captain for the 2013 tour to North America but in the end missed the trip when called up to replace Dylan Hartley for the Lions.
While Best’s elder brother Simon and David Humphreys both led Ireland on a stand-in basis, the last permanent captain to come from Ulster was Dungannon lock Paddy Johns, who led the side on 10 occasions between June 1998 and April the next year.
Best, who has won 89 caps, could become the first Ulsterman to reach a century next autumn if he were to remain an ever-present in the Six Nations and on the summer tour to South Africa.
After agreeing a two-year contract extension with his native province and the IRFU last week, he said: “After a World Cup you’re not sure how they are thinking. Will they bring in new guns and prepare for the next World Cup?
“They must have thought there is life in me yet, which is great.”