WITH Paul O'Connell gone, the question of who would replace him as Ireland rugby captain was looming larger and larger over Ireland's Six Nations campaign. But on Wednesday Joe Schmidt made a wise choice – the ‘Best’ choice if you will – Rory Best. Here's why.
1. After a recent harrowing first-half, when Ulster conceded 23 points without reply to Oyonnax, the relegation threatened Top 14 side, Best's half-time team-talk was credited for the subsequent turnaround – a 24-23 win.
2. Jamie Heaslip, who was considered for captaincy as an alternative to Best, has been there and done it before. But he did it fairly badly, with a 50 per cent loss ratio marked on his ballot paper.
3. Another candidate – Peter O'Mahony – was a credible option for the role, but he is injured and out of the squad with the Six Nations just around the corner.
4. Johnny Sexton, another candidate, is out of form. And, regardless, as a number 10 he is meant to be running the show along with place-kicking. He can do without the extra pressure of captaincy.
5. Best's candidacy was endorsed by legendary rugby trio Keith Wood, Paul Wallace and Ruan Pienaar.
6. Indeed, in Ulster, the debate seems pointless. Their man is clearly the stand-out candidate. "I would be amazed if there was anyone better than Rory for this job," said Niall Malone, their assistant coach.