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'You don't have to re-invent things because you're captain' - Best

Ulster hooker knows he has big boots to fill leading the defending champions into the Six Nations.

Rory Best with Joe Schmidt at today's Six Nations launch.
Rory Best with Joe Schmidt at today's Six Nations launch.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

PAUL O’CONNELL is a hard act to follow, but Rory Best will try to fill the seismic void left by the talismanic lock in the coming weeks.

Joe Schmidt has entrusted Best with the captaincy ahead of a demanding Six Nations schedule which includes daunting trips to Paris and Twickenham.

With 89 caps, Best is the most experienced member of the Irish squad and joins an illustrious cast of former Ireland captains including O’Connell, Brian O’Driscoll and Keith Wood.

“It’s a big challenge,” said the Ulster hooker.

“Speaking to Paul before he took over from Brian, it was a big challenge stepping into those shoes. Brian, before that, taking over from Woody. Every time, there’s a bit of a change in the captaincy, you’re filling big shoes because they’ve been pivotal parts of Irish rugby.

“It’s a challenge, but I think the one thing that certainly Paulie did really well was he didn’t change how he went about things. He got put in there because of how he was around the place.

You don’t have to reinvent things just because you’re captain. You just keep trying to lead by example.

Despite a harrowing World Cup exit, a host of injuries and a painful Champions Cup campaign for the provinces, Ireland head into the tournament targeting an unprecedented third successive title.

First up is the Welsh in Dublin. Warren Gatland’s side will be looking to inject some early momentum into their title challenge with home games against Scotland and France awaiting them in rounds two and three.

Ireland, on the other hand, face trips to the Stade de France and Twickenham after their encounter with Warren Gatland’s side. You can’t win the Six Nations in the opening round but you can certainly lose it.

It’s a point not lost on Best looking ahead to the crucial clash in 11 days’ time: “There’s always pressure no matter where you are or where you’ve finished the previous year.

“Obviously, to be defending champions, there’s a little bit more pressure on because teams will want to topple the champions and that puts you in a good position to win the championship yourself.

“It’s a really difficult championship to win anyway. We start off with a very tough game against Wales. Wales are a quality opposition. It’s going to be a tough for us in the Aviva Stadium. To be honest, it’s something that over the last couple of years has served us really well just taking the next game at it comes.

The next game is Wales and we won’t be looking behind that.

A new generation of young Irish talent has emerged this season with Connacht lock Ultan Dillane, Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey and Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier rewarded with call-ups to Schmidt’s squad.

According to the new skipper, the trio have made an immediate impression at Carton House.

“There are some really talented young players coming in for the first time such as Van der Flier and Dillane,” added Best.

“These young kids have impressed already in the two days just in how much they want to take in and how willing they are to learn.

“I think when guys come in with an attitude like that, whether it’s in six weeks or maybe this time next year, I think there’s a bright future for those guys.”

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