Brian O’Driscoll has admitted his disappointment at not reclaiming the Ireland captaincy from Jamie Heaslip, but says he accepts Declan Kidney’s reasons behind the decision.

Heaslip retains the Ireland captaincy for the upcoming Six Nations, despite O’Driscoll’s recent return to action following a lengthy injury.

Speaking after today’s squad announcement, O’Driscoll said: “The captaincy has been a big part of my career and life over the last number of years, and while I was naturally very disappointed not to be leading the team in the Six Nations, when I talked it through with Declan I accepted the reasons behind the decision.

“I’ve always known that the Rugby World Cup in 2015 was most likely a bridge too far for me, so at some point a player, who will most likely be there for the tournament, needs to build that captaincy experience.

"Jamie will do a fantastic job and along with the other senior players in the leadership group, I will be giving him all of the support that he needs.”

Commenting on the issue, Kidney said: “Jamie had done a really good job for the squad and management during November and I felt that now was the correct time to do this.

"Brian has had very little rugby in the last number of months and I think he deserves the space and time to concentrate on getting himself back playing fully fit."

"I know Brian as a teammate and as a friend and I will be relying on his and the other players support" - Jamie Heaslip

“We need Brian the player just as much as we need Brian the captain and typical of the man and the selfless way he has contributed to Irish Rugby and the Ireland team, he has said that the captain and the team would have his full support.”

Heaslip said: “I was incredibly honoured when Declan asked me back in November to lead the team in Brian’s absence.

“To lead your country is the ultimate in any sport. To get the opportunity again, considering what an inspirational leader Brian is and the other players who could have been chosen to captain the team, is even more humbling.

"I know Brian as a teammate and as a friend and I will be relying on his and the other players support as we head into the Championship.”