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Here are the five men vying for the Irish rugby captaincy

Take your pick from O’Connell, Heaslip, O’Driscoll, Best and O’Mahony.

Jamie Heaslip observes as Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan scrum down.
Jamie Heaslip observes as Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan scrum down.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

IRELAND COACH JOE SCHMIDT has told TheScore.ie he will decide upon his captain a week before the November Series.

Ireland take on Samoa, Australia and New Zealand over consecutive weekends and are in desperate need of some big victories as they go into a 2014 Six Nations with games away to France and England.

The names Paul O’Connell, Jamie Heaslip, Brian O’Driscoll and Peter O’Mahony have all been mentioned as a captaincy choice for Schmidt. The Kiwi, yesterday, added Rory Best’s name to that list.

We asked three of our writers — Murray Kinsella, Sean Farrell and Pat McCarry — to argue the case of Ireland’s would-be captains.

Paul O’Connell

Paul O’Connell is the best leader in Irish rugby and has been for almost a decade. Furthermore, he remains the premier lock in the country and will be an automatic choice for Ireland if he recovers full fitness. The 33-year-old was in superb form for the Lions before that cruel arm fracture in the first Test and still has a serious desire to play at the top level.

While O’Connell has shied away from captaincy over the last two years, even stepping down from the Munster leadership in 2012, he is still the man teammates look to for inspiration and decision-making. He may not be a long-term choice, but Schmidt has stressed the need for Ireland to start winning immediately. Naming O’Connell as captain gives the new coach the best chance of doing that. MK

imageBrian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell have a combined 210 Test caps for Ireland. INPHO/Billy Stickland

Brian O’Driscoll

You want fairytales? I’ll give you fairytales. Brian O’Driscoll races in for a try under the posts at the Stade de France on 15 March 2014 and seals Ireland’s second Grand Slam in five years. The legendary outside centre lifts the Six Nations trophy, sprays champagne and we get to see daughter Sadie taking shaky first steps across the un-frozen pitch to him him celebrate.

O’Driscoll has long been a leader through his famous deeds and, if Lions teammate George North is anyone to go by, a leader through his words in training and on the pitch. Schmidt could not hope to find a more inspirational character and O’Driscoll is capable of the perfect ending, one year on from his axing in Oz. PM

Jamie Heaslip

Schmidt may be planning a revolution in certain playing patters, but in terms of personnel, evolution will do just fine. He inherits a team with a captain who leads by example on the field, in the media and in training and retaining Heaslip as the skipper will help to limit the distractions which will inevitably surround not only an incoming coach, but an incoming style.

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Heaslip is a man Schmidt will know well, too, having coached him for the past three years, the Kiwi will be confident in knowing what the number eight will bring to the frame. SF

Peter O’Mahony

The planning for  the next World Cup was chopped at the ankles when Declan Kidney’s Ireland slumped in the Six Nations. Kidney backed Heaslip as his captain to lead Ireland to RWC 2015 but Schmidt’s arrival should see him strike down a different path. That is where O’Mahony comes in.

imageCaptain Peter O’Mahony talks to referee Leighton Hodges during Ireland’s win over Canada. INPHO/Billy Stickland

The Cork native has been mooted as a future Irish captain since he was a teenager and has seamlessly taken on the role at Munster. Rob Penney believes he should have travelled to Australia as a Lion but O’Mahony contented himself with leading his country to two summer Test triumphs. PM

Rory Best

It’s Rory Best’s time. He has captained Ireland with distinction in the past, but only ever as a vice-captain stepping up and filling in for an injured Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll. The Ulster man remains Schmidt’s best option at hooker and only an injury would allow Sean Cronin, Damien Varley or Mike Sherry get a sniff.

Placing the extra responsibility on his shoulders always tends to push his efforts in the loose up a level or two and his words and his set-piece efficiency could also be improved if it’s him calling the shots. SF

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