/ Rugby

Captaincy quartet choice for Ireland coach Schmidt

Updated: Wednesday, 06 Nov 2013 13:09 | Comments

Paul O'Connell is one of the frontrunners to be named Ireland captain Paul O'Connell and John Plumtree talking tactics as Ireland train for the upcoming internationals
Paul O'Connell is one of the frontrunners to be named Ireland captain Paul O'Connell and John Plumtree talking tactics as Ireland train for the upcoming internationals

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Ireland boast four captaincy front-runners who could lead the squad into the Joe Schmidt era, believes flanker Chris Henry.

The Ulster loose-forward sees Ireland's autumn international captaincy as a four-way fight between Paul O'Connell, Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Heaslip and Rory Best.

New head coach Schmidt will confirm his skipper on Thursday, with Munster talisman O'Connell still the favourite despite continued calf trouble.

O'Connell is expected to feature in Saturday's opening autumn clash against Samoa in Dublin, but forwards coach John Plumtree admitted he may not last the full match.

Henry admitted whoever Schmidt chooses will receive the squad's full backing but he revealed the four men he feels best-placed to lead the side.

"We as players don't really know who the captain is yet," said the eight-cap forward.

"But look around: there are options all over the place and Paul (O'Connell) definitely is up there.

"There's a lot of inspirational characters there. I suppose sometimes when I'm running around training, you look at the circle of players and you still have to take a second glance sometimes, with Paulie, Drico and Jamie, and Rory as well.

"Whoever gets the nod will be extremely proud of course but there are options all over the place, and the fact that we have so many leaders, whoever gets the nod will have a lot of experienced hands behind him as well.

"I'm glad I don't have to make the decision, but in my head the four candidates would be Paul, Drico, Jamie and Rory.

"Any one of those boys will do exactly the right job and we'd all stick behind them exactly the way it should be."

"We as players don't really know who the captain is yet" - Chris Henry

Lock O'Connell, centre O'Driscoll, number eight Heaslip and hooker Best hold a combined 334 caps, with an average age of 32.

Ireland's need to usher in long-term successors in a host of positions underpins Schmidt's accession.

Henry expects big-hitting Samoa to provide a stern test of Ireland's early credentials under former New Zealand schoolteacher Schmidt.

But he warned the Pacific Islanders' physical threat will be matched by their defence-splitting offloading game.

Henry said: "The small bit of defence we have done so far has been about their offloading game; their continuity.

"Once they get the ball, it's about us trying to connect (tackle) as quickly as possible.

"We want to keep the ball but there are going to be turnovers and whenever that happens we've got to respond very quickly.

"They've got some serious ball carriers in their team and they always want to keep the ball alive.

"We've got to focus on that ball and stop the offloads."

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