Coach Matt Williams believes his decision to hand the skipper’s armband to flanker David Pollock for the final Heineken Cup pool game at Stade Francais will benefit Ulster in the future.
With Rory Best sitting out the trip to Paris, Williams could have given the captaincy to any number of players including former All Black Paul Steinmetz or World Cup winner BJ Botha, but he has gone for Pollock who led Ireland U20s to a grand slam.
“Leadership is like any skill, it needs developing. You’ve one captain on the field but you have 15 leaders and David has developed brilliantly with a lot of mentoring from Kieron Dawson, who has been quite superb with him,” said Williams.
“His leadership needs to be practised and I certainly see him as a future leader of Ulster and to do that he needs to get out and lead.
“He’s done it at age group level and he has captained A teams for us, he captained Ulster against Portugal and he needs to step out on the big stage and do that.
“By doing that he will understand how to support Rory more. He has got a lot of experienced guys around him to keep him on the straight and narrow.
“Like all the things we are trying to do here that is money in the bank for the future and it is money we will be able to withdraw on big days in Europe in two or three years when we need that leadership and experience.
“He’ll learn a lot from going to Paris and being captain and I have got a lot of confidence in the way he leads the team.”
Ulster are on course for their best finish in a Heineken Cup group since 2002 despite losing the opening two games, but need to win in France to secure second place ahead of Stade and Llanelli.
“If at the start of the year someone said you’ve Stade, Quins and Llanelli, would finishing second be a good performance, you’d have to say it is but that’s not where we want to be, we want to be first.
“We’re not accepting second best but it would be an indication of the progression of our team. I think the team has progressed enormously and if we played Stade at home in this round we would go close to beating them,” said Williams.