D'Arcy: Schmidt will use Six Nations to scout potential successor to Rory Best
Gordon D'Arcy believes that, while Joe Schmidt will be hoping Rory Best can captain Ireland all the way through to the 2019 World Cup, the New Zealander is likely to use the upcoming Six Nations to shortlist potential successors.
Best was made skipper after Paul O'Connell's retirement and, although the Ulster hooker initially seemed burdened by the weight of the role, as 2016 progressed he became a more assured presence.
After a mixed Six Nations campaign, he led Ireland to a first ever Test win in South Africa and then over the All-Blacks.
He played in 11 of Ireland's 12 games last year but, at 34, and with his current contract with the IRFU expiring in 2018, the former Leinster and Ireland centre reckons Schmidt will be considering life without Best.
"I would be very surprised if Joe hasn't thought about who he would like to be captaining in the future. The way Rory has conducted himself as captain, how he's led the team and how he's playing personally, I'm sure he would be delighted if Rory gets to the World Cup," D'Arcy said.
"But I'm sure he will have two or three contingencies in mind and would be confident we'll start seeing some potential candidates coming through in the Six Nations."
Meanwhile, Dylan Hartley is set to be reinstated as England captain today after serving a six-week ban for a swinging arm on Séan O'Brien.
And, after picking up knocks on club duty, back-rows James Haskell and Jack Clifford will remain at home to undergo medical assessment while the rest of the squad travel to Portugal for a training camp.
Also, injuries have ruled out French hooker Camille Chat and flanker Raphael Lakafia of their opener against England in Twickenham on Saturday week.