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Rory Best ruled out of Ireland's tour of Australia

By Gareth Hanna

Ireland captain Rory Best will miss the upcoming tour to Australia.

Head coach Joe Schmidt confirmed the news at his press conference on Thursday afternoon as Best struggles with a hamstring problem that forced him to sit out Ulster's end-of-season Champions Cup play-off.

Best picked up the injury in training ahead of the win over Ospreys but had been included in Schmidt's 32-man squad for the three-game tour.

"We felt that he 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. "

Munster's Niall Scannell has been called up to replace Best, while Schmidt is as yet unsure who will captain the side in the Banbridge man's absence. The responsibility could be shared between vice-captains Peter O'Mahony and Johnny Sexton.

Ulster players Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, John Cooney and Jacob Stockdale are all included in the panel.

Ireland will play Australia in Brisbane on June 9, Melbourne on June 16 and Sydney on June 23.

Ulster's newly-appointed defence coach Jared Payne is set to travel in order to work with the Ireland coaches.

"He's a great character as well as a really clever player," said Schmidt. "A couple of years ago when we went to South Africa with a very young side, he was an incredible leader in that situation. Some of the detail and the advice that he gave; he's been coaching for the last two years in our environment. For him to pick up and do so well in a very short space of time with Ulster, I think already promises plenty, without putting any pressure on him.

"I've been doing this for 17 or 18 years and I'm still learning. He's a great learner, he has great game knoledge and an ability to communicate positively."

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