Ulster coach Les Kiss has welcomed the news that Rory Best, who is on the bench for his side’s Champions Cup clash with Oyonnax this afternoon (1pm), has been handed the opportunity to skipper both club and country this season.
A back problem is expected to limit the 33-year-old's involvement against the French outfit at Kingspan Stadium.
“He’s had a tight back and hasn’t done a lot of the training this week, but we’ve got a great replacement in Rob Herring, who also made the Ireland squad, which was great,” Kiss said.
“I think it’s such a great reward for what Rory’s delivered in the green jersey and the Ulster jersey to earn that. A lot of people respect him here and around the country. I think it's deserved and a great honour for him and his family.”
Paul Marshall will team up with Paddy Jackson in the half-backs, with illness sidelining Ruan Pienaar.
“Unfortunately Ruan got sick during the week, it hasn’t been good for him, so we’ve decided to leave him out,” Kiss revealed.
“Paul Marshall will step into the breach there, him and Paddy have worked well together.”
Kiss, who was an integral part of the Ireland set-up from 2009 until the country’s quarter-final exit at last year’s World Cup, also welcomed the inclusion of the uncapped Stuart McCloskey in Joe Schmidt’s squad.
McCloskey has enjoyed an eye-catching partnership with fellow Ireland squad member Luke Marshall in the Ulster midfield in recent months, but has been rested this weekend as Darren Cave enters the fray.
“To get those guys in has been fantastic,” the Aussie coach said. “I think the centre partnership has been probably one of the best that has operated around, over the last five or six weeks.
“I’m really happy for them. It hasn’t happened by accident. They’re good players, they’ve worked hard on their games.”
“Stu’s done a lot for us,” Kiss admitted. “He’s carried the can in terms of the advantage line and him and Nick [Williams] have been good in tandem.
“Luke Marshall has also carried the gain line for us as well. He’s got a rest, but it’s good to have Cavey back as well.”