Rory Best's Ireland blow could be Rob Herring's big chance: Schmidt
Ireland were dealt a serious blow at Carton House yesterday with the news that Rory Best's hamstring injury will keep him out of the tour of Australia but head coach Joe Schmidt believes it is a great chance for another hooker to step up.
The 111-capped Best has been a stalwart for Ireland well into his mid-30s, but the hamstring strain he picked up prior to Ulster's game with Ospreys last month will see him miss the entire three Test tour that begins next Saturday at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
And, while he'd much prefer to have his skipper with him Down Under, Schmidt sees it as a good opportunity for Rob Herring, Sean Cronin or Scannell to put up their hands.
"We felt that he (Best) was going in the right direction and that he'd be ready for game one, or definitely for game two, but he's just not quite where we need him to be," said Schmidt.
"To go away with just two fit hookers, it's a real risk. If one gets sick on the morning of the match, in the laws of the game you've got to have a replacement for every position in the front row so somebody then has to fill in.
"I think it's a good opportunity for the three guys going as hookers now. For probably the last number of years, the understudy of Bestie has fluctuated a little bit. It's a good opportunity for all three of them to vie for the spot. That's a positive.
"We want to make sure this tour is another building block for what comes in the future."
Ireland will of course need a new captain too, with Schmidt yet to decide on who will lead the side.
"We've two vice captains in Peter O'Mahony and Johnny Sexton and a strong leadership group," the former Leinster coach explained.
"It will depend a bit on selection and what we feel we need at any given time. It could be that Pete and Johnny take the team on and share the load."