Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said that his captain’s decision has been a tough one to mull over, during the last two weeks.
The former Leinster coach has picked Paul O’Connell as squad captain with Jamie Heaslip as vice captain.
The Leinster number 8 though will captain Ireland this weekend as they face Samoa at the Aviva Stadium in the first of their November International tests.
Heaslips role as captain this week fell to him as O’Connell could not shake off a calf problem this week in training, the Munster man however has been named on the bench.
Schmidt said “It was a very tough decision as we have a very good group who are really steering the ship so to have two guys at the helm just allows us to cover our basis.”
He added, “Obviously with Paul, he’s had an intermittent two years now where he has had a number of injuries while Jamie has been durable and he’s going to line up for every training game and it just allows us to cover all basis.”
Heaslip has captained his country before under Declan Kidney for the 2012 Autumn test series and was appointed captain in January of this year for the RBS Six Nations.
In spite of this there would certainly be cause for huge disappointment, but Schmidt says he has taken it very well.
“Jamie just said he was delighted (With the vice-captain role) we chatted more about what’s happening this week-end, more than what’s happening going forward because we would be very short term focused.”
Another talking point pre today’s team announcement was how many of the Leinster players would Joe have picked.
He picked 9 of his already tried and tested players in the starting 15; Rob Kearney, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Fergus McFadden, Jamie Heaslip, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Mike Ross and Jack McGrath with a further six on the subs bench.
The national coach insists that he did not pick the team by the tried and trusted method.
“We’re looking to mix it up to be honest, our other options if we had decided to play them, Kevin McLoughlin has had a niggle last week where he didn’t train fully, Sean O’Brien and Paul O’Connell have had one and a half training sessions so what we did was, we selected the team on preparedness and we felt that the group had spent the most time together and we wanted to show faith in that group.”
Ian Madigan has been overlooked at fly-half as Paddy Jackson has been chosen at 10 in the absence of the injured Jonathon Sexton and Schmidt says his decision to start Jackson was purely down to the amount of game time the Ulster man has under his belt compared to Madigan.
“I think he (Madigan) has had limited opportunity to impress, whereas Paddy has had that continuity of game time and he has shown a progression through that time and he was able to convince us that he was the right man for the job to start with but I like the fact that Ian gives you a change-up off the bench, he’s also versatile in position but he’s a 10 first and foremost.” Schmidt said.
Also commenting on the absence of Jonathon Sexton, Schmidt said, “He has a little bit of a hip flexor tightness and we just felt that with all of his game time that we leave him off this weekend.”