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New co-captain Andrew Trimble: It takes two to replace Rory Best

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster have shaken up their leadership group with the news that Andrew Trimble and Rob Herring will act as co-captains for the upcoming season, replacing Rory Best.

Speaking after the semi-final loss to Leinster that ended the last PRO12 campaign back in May, Best appeared to intimate that it could be his final game as provincial skipper and, after consultation with Les Kiss throughout the summer, it has been decided that he will step down.

The man who turned 34 this week made 14 appearances for Ulster last season thanks to Ireland involvement and, after Paul O'Connell's retirement from rugby, has been serving as national captain since the Six Nations.

While the hooker, who ceded the captaincy once before to Johann Muller, will still have a huge influence on things at the Kingspan Stadium, it will now be Trimble or Herring who lead the side.

Speaking on the change, Kiss said: "Rob and Andrew are two outstanding individuals who have the respect of everyone within the organisation and I'm delighted they have agreed to take on the captaincy.

"In the current landscape it's hard to guarantee that one player will be available all of the time, so the shared captaincy model will give us more flexibility and continuity throughout the season.

"Rory and I have been in discussions about this since the end of last season and we felt it was the perfect time for him to assist us in developing this new leadership structure. His experience of captaining both Ulster and Ireland last season will continue to be invaluable for us as a group.

"We have strong experience across our squad that will support Rob and Andrew by driving standards off the field and assisting with tactics and decision-making in training and in match situations."

Trimble, who has made a record-breaking 206 appearances for Ulster, says the honour of captaining the side is all the greater given his predecessor.

"To be named as captain of my home province is extremely humbling and this is without doubt one of the proudest moments of my career," said the winger. "We are a close-knit group of players and we are lucky to have so many leaders to call upon.

"Rob is a fantastic player and captain and I believe we have a great structure in place that will allow us to deliver on the pitch.

"Rory is an absolute legend in this team and everybody looks up to him. Filling his shoes is a big ask. That's why it takes two of us to be honest."

While the decision between Herring and Trimble will be made depending on the circumstances and opposition, the latter said that the team's veterans will all be expected to contribute.

"We've so many leaders in this team it would be a shame not to use them," he added. "The likes of Rory Best, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar, Tommy Bowe, the list is endless. We need to get to a point where we lead each other and everyone takes responsibility. Hopefully that's where we're going to go and it'll take us to the next level."

Herring deputised as skipper throughout last season and has proven to be a hugely reliable squad member despite making way when Best was available.

Saying he too was humbled by the honour, the native South African is proud to follow in the footsteps of some Ulster heroes.

"To be named a club captain of Ulster is an absolute honour and something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. You look at the captains that have gone before and they're legends of Ulster. If I can achieve half of what they did I'll be happy," he said.

"We wanted to take the focus off one person and make it a team thing. Captaining with Andrew, he's an Ulster legend already and it's something I'm really looking forward to."

Meanwhile, Scotland have announced that Glasgow's Gregor Townsend will replace Vern Cotter as head coach in June 2017. Having led his club to the PRO12 title in 2015, the former out-half, who won 82 Scottish caps, has drawn praise for the style of play implemented at Scotstoun.

Cotter led Scotland to the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals.

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