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'I know how unbelievably lucky I am to take over from a captain like Paulie' - Best

The Ulster hooker says he had an emotional few days after learning of his appointment.

RORY BEST SAYS he’s honoured to take over from Paul O’Connell as Ireland captain, and feels he must bring his own unique style of leadership to the role.

The Ulster hooker was yesterday confirmed as Joe Schmidt’s choice to succeed O’Connell as Ireland skipper, with Jamie Heaslip continuing as vice-captain.

Rory Best talks to Cian Healy and Paul OÕConnell Best takes over from O'Connell. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ireland did not hold a press event to confirm Best’s appointment and the make-up of their 35-man squad for the opening rounds of the Six Nations, but the 33-year-old told Sky Sports that he was honoured to be selected.

“I got the call a few days ago, just to say that they had been discussing it as a management group and a coaching staff and that they’d like me to be the captain if I’d like to do it,” said Best.

I was sitting at home and I was obviously sworn to secrecy; it’s been a tough enough secret to keep for a bit. People have been wondering why you’re a little bit grumpy or more preoccupied, but it’s a massive honour for me to do it. It was nice when Joe gave me that call.”

There has been widespread approval for Schmidt’s decision to promote Best into the captaincy role since yesterday’s confirmation, and the hooker explained it was an emotional few days for himself and his family.

“I was obviously smiling pretty broadly but I don’t choke up very often,” said Best. “My wife would say that I very rarely choke up! It was hugely emotional and telling family over the last day or so has been quite emotional for them.

“My career hasn’t exactly been straightforward. There’s been a lot of highs, don’t get me wrong, but there has been lows along the way. To add this now to the CV is a massive honour.”

Joe Schmidt and Rory Best Schmidt has put his faith in Best. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The likes of Heaslip, Sean O’Brien and Johnny Sexton were thought to be strong contenders for the Ireland captaincy, and Best stated his happiness at having men like them around him in his new position.

Others like Rob Kearney, Conor Murray and Andrew Trimble are well regarded in the leadership department too.

“I know how unbelievably lucky I am to take over from a captain like Paulie, but also to be captain of a squad where there’s so many good captains, good leaders and good players,” said the Ulsterman.

It’s something that I’m really looking forward to and I know that the boys will be a really good bunch and really professional. They’ll go about their business and I know they’ll make my life reasonably easy.

“The big thing for me then is to make sure the values and the characteristics that I’ve shown to be brought in as captain, that I stick to those and don’t try to be something that is Paul O’Connell or is Brian O’Driscoll. I have to be the captain that I am and that Joe and the coaches have seen in me.”

Best’s first task as the new leader is to help Ireland defend their Six Nations crown, as Schmidt’s men go in pursuit of a third consecutive trophy.

Rory Best dejected after the game Ireland will look to bounce back from RWC disappointment. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 33-year-old stated that the squad have not addressed that goal openly yet, instead pointing out the difficulty of the task ahead.

“We have an unbelievably tough start in Dublin against Wales [on 7 February] and that’s all we’ve been focusing on. If we take it game by game, we’ll see where we are in the shake up.

It’s a tough competition, you see there hasn’t been a Grand Slam in years now because there’s so many quality teams.

“There’s a lot of unknowns because there’s two new coaches, Scotland are really finding their feet under Vern Cotter and we know how difficult Italy can be – I’ve been in Ireland teams that have lost to Italy.

“To start up with talk of three in a row would be slightly premature. For us it is about the job in hand against Wales.”

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Murray Kinsella

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