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Best should remain as captain: O'Donnell

By Jonathan Bradley

Munster's Tommy O'Donnell has backed Rory Best to hold onto the Ireland captaincy for this summer's three-test Tour to South Africa.

The 33-year-old Ulsterman was appointed skipper for the Six Nations following the retirement of Paul O'Connell after the World Cup but, upon the end of the championship, the question of who should lead the side will inevitably arise again in some quarters.

While Ireland's attempt for a third consecutive title did not go smoothly, Saturday's victory over Scotland ensured the top-half finish that head coach Joe Schmidt had opined would be a success for his injury-hit squad before the action kicked off.

While filling the shoes of the legendary O'Connell was always likely to be a daunting task, the squad have continually endorsed Best's new brand of leadership with O'Donnell, who bounced back from the disappointment of missing the World Cup to make three appearances, backing the hooker to keep the role.

"I would [back him]," said the openside. "Rory has always been a natural leader in the squad since ever since I came in.

"There is a great abundance of leaders in the squad and, yes, Paulie was that talismanic figure, but Rory was always one of those vice captains and chipping in. He has stepped up well."

The anticipated return to fitness of Peter O'Mahony in time for a first summer tour to one of the game's big three since 2012's trip to New Zealand gives Schmidt another leadership option but, with CJ Stander having performed so admirably in his absence, the naturalised South African has no intention of relinquishing the number six jersey.

"Any player that puts on that jersey, I'll support them and they will support me," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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