Joe Schmidt believes Rory Best is still the best man to captain Ireland

Rory Best will skipper Ireland this season before coach Joe Schmidt assesses his captaincy options for the 2019 World Cup.

Ulster star Best revealed on Friday that Schmidt told him during the summer that he would remain skipper during the autumn Tests and the Six Nations.

“If Joe had wanted to make a change of captain, he would have made the change,” said the Ireland hooker.

Best will lead Ireland in Saturday’s first autumn Test against South Africa.

Best guided Ireland to the country’s historic first ever win over the All Blacks last November

Historic win over New Zealand

Last year, Ireland’s autumn campaign began in a blaze of glory as Best captained the Irish in Chicago to the country’s first ever

The Ulsterman has now shaken off a hamstring injury to take his place in Ireland’s front row in what is expected to be a physical contest against the Springboks.

“He [Joe] said early enough in one of the summer camps that as long as I was happy to continue, that I would be captain again, and then we’d reassess at the end of the season.

“It was nice to be asked again. When you’re in that position you never like to assume anything, so it was good when Joe said they’d like me to do it again for the season.”

The 104-cap stalwart will be 37 by the time the 2019 World Cup starts and only John Hayes has been capped for Ireland at that age.

When quizzed on his chances of leading Ireland at the next World Cup, Best replied: “I think it’s a difficult one, because you’re never too sure what’s round the corner.”

Ireland captains extends tough Springboks battle

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Ireland v South Africa: Jacob Stockdale keen to grasp Ireland opportunity

Most immediately, that is represented by the Springboks and the Irish skipper is expecting a tough test against a side that lost only by a point against the All Blacks in their last game.

“If you think of vintage South Africa teams and these big forwards getting them across the gainline and a big-kicking out-half [Elton Jantjies].

“These guys have those forwards and an out-half that can kick but they have a lot more as well. The depth they play at and the offloads, that makes them a real handful.”

Ireland have won four of the last six Dublin contests between the teams although the Springboks triumphed in the last two meetings in South Africa in the summer of 2016 as they recovered from an opening Test defeat to record a 2-1 series victory.

An interesting sub-plot is the controversy over World Rugby’s view that South Africa, and not Ireland or France, should host the

Prior to World Rugby’s recommendation on 31 October, Ireland were the bookies favourites to land the tournament but South Africa instead came out on top ahead of the French and Irish in a technical review.

This led the Irish Rugby Football Union writing a letter to World Rugby which claimed that their bid had been assessed “unreasonably”.


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