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18th May 2017

Obvious candidate emerges to captain Ireland this summer

Only has 13 caps

Patrick McCarry

There was an odd anomaly in the Ireland squad named on Tuesday afternoon – no captain.

While many had expected Jamie Heaslip to captain the touring squad, the Leinster flanker’s back injury means Joe Schmidt has given him the summer off to fully recuperate.

With regular captain Rory Best and Peter O’Mahony, who has twice led Ireland, away with the Lions, there is a sudden lack of clear candidates.

Former Ireland international Stephen Ferris and Kevin McLaughlin discussed Ireland’s leadership shortfall on The Hard Yards and both agreed there was an obvious captaincy candidate.

“Joe is using this tour to plan forward,” said McLaughlin. “He is building a squad for 2019 [and the World Cup].

“What he’s going to be looking for on this tour is for leaders to emerge, because there are no obvious leaders aside from Rhys Ruddock, Paddy Jackson and Devin Toner…. Cian Healy. Aside from them, there are no really obvious ones and it will be interesting to see who steps up.

“Joe is going to be watching them like a hawk. It’s an interesting dynamic when you take eight or nine leaders out of a squad because everything changes. The inexperienced guys know they need to step up. It’s an interesting dynamic.”

McLaughlin says Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster is all for younger squad members to stand up and voice their opinions with the province. Schmidt will be expecting the same and it may have a massive bearing on Ireland’s future prospects.

Ferris is in agreement with McLaughlin about Rhys Ruddock, who has only been in the Ireland squad in fits and starts but who is highly rated by his fellow professionals. Ferris said:

“Rhys is someone who leads by example, on and off the pitch. He’s professional in everything he does and he has been playing some outstanding rugby these last number of weeks. He’s definitely one of the old heads in there and he doesn’t have a whole load of caps [13].

“There’s responsibility that lies with him. Devin will work hard with the young lads like Kieran Treadwell [and James Ryan], teaching them the lineout and dark arts of international rugby. For me, I’m really excited about it.”

Rather than worry about the big names missing from Ireland’s summer squad – Heaslip, Rob Kearney, Donnacha Ryan and Andrew Trimble – Ferris believes Irish rugby is in a good place and he is looking forward to seeing how the younger heads get on.

“I hope, for them, that they go out and absolutely relish the opportunity,” he proclaimed.

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