Rory Best: Long-term decision on Ireland captaincy will be made at the end of this season
Rory Best says a decision on his long-term captaincy will be made at the end of this season, but the Ulsterman is determined to enjoy the leadership role for as long as he has it.
The 35-year-old is in his third season as skipper after taking over from Paul O'Connell in 2016, but doubts have been raised about his capacity to hold on to the job for the World Cup in Japan in 2019.
The experienced hooker will be 37 by then, but he is concentrating on the here and now after overcoming his hamstring issue that ruled him out of the early part of the season.
"To be fair to Joe, there's not many back doors," he said after leading his side through their Captain's Run at the Aviva Stadium this morning.
"If he was looking to change, he would have made the change.
"He said early enough in one of the summer camps that as long as I'd be happy to continue I'd be captain again and we'd reassess at the end of the season depending on where we were and how we felt and what was going on etc etc..
"So I suppose that's something for the end of season. But it was nice to be asked again. I think when you're in that position and captaining the country you never like to assume anything, so it was good when Joe said: 'we'd like you to do it again for this season' it gave me the confidence that he liked what I was doing, I was doing a good job.
"Ultimately when you're asked to captain a side, one of the hardest things is to keep sticking to what you're doing.
"You feel you need to do something different. I suppose over the last couple of years, I've learnt that and i feel a lot more comfortable in that role.
"I enjoy doing it and it was good to be asked to do it again."
Tomorrow's clash with South Africa is front and centre of Best's mind and he is fully aware that the two sides could come face to face in two years' time in a World Cup quarter-final.
"As a captain, get through this block and then get through the Six Nations and we'll reassess," he said.
"A side of the quality of South Africa and - if you want to talk about World Cups - a side you could potentially meet in the World Cup. It's important for us to gel, gel quickly and to put in a performance in what's going to be a massive test.
"Looking further afield would be foolish for us when there's so much quality coming to the Aviva."
Best is expecting a tough encounter against an improving Springbok team.
"I think it's a good South Africa team, it definitely is.
“They've come a long way from the team we played a year ago last June.
"If you think of vintage South Africa teams and these big forwards getting them across the gainline and a big-kicking out-half.
“These guys have those forwards and an out-half that can kick but they have a lot more as well. The depth they play at and the offloads, that makes them a real handful.
"It'll be a really good test for our defence. So from that side of things, they've pulled together a lot of the perceived old strengths and put an extra dimension on it."
Ireland reported a clean bill of health from this morning's Captain's Run.
Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, a trip to Old Trafford to watch Man United take on Liverpool in the Premier League, tickets to Ireland's home games in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.