Scrum coach Greg Feek doesn't fear leadership vacuum in Best's absence

Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek believes there is plenty of leadership within the current squad that can make up for the absence of veteran captain Rory Best.

Feek is also banking on the three hookers on tour taking their opportunity to shine, now they are out of Best’s shadow.

The 111-cap Test skipper was a late withdrawal from the squad to take on Australia over three Tests this month after failing to recover from a hamstring injury.

That meant a last-minute call-up to the touring party for Munster hooker Niall Scannell, who now vies with Leinster’s Sean Cronin and Best’s Ulster understudy Rob Herring for a place in the squad for this Saturday’s opening Test against the Wallabies in Brisbane.

Joe Schmidt will name his matchday 23 for the Suncorp Stadium tomorrow morning and also reveal his choice to lead Ireland in Best’s absence, with one of Ireland’s vice-captains, Johnny Sexton and Peter O’Mahony, expected to get the nod. Whichever it is, Feek is not expecting any lack of leadership.

“The good thing in our environment is that there is always a bit of a shared leadership,” Feek said.

Rory is the captain and he always said the right thing at the right time; that’s good, but other guys can step up.

“There’s some guys there who know what’s going on. They’re probably the main things, but we know what Johnny, Pete, CJ (Stander) and Earlsy (Keith Earls) and those guys are like. Whoever comes in, the boys will just get on with it.

“The direction of how we go about things, the leaders have always driven those values hard anyway. I think it’s not a bad thing, looking at it positively. Besty’s a good man, he does a good job, but you always try to look at things with a positive point of view.”

As for the vacancy at number two, the favourite to get the start is Leinster’s double-winning Sean Cronin, Best’s long-term back-up, with 52 of his 61 Test appearances having come as a replacement.

He’s had a massive season,” Feek said of Cronin. “We know what Sean can offer. I hadn’t looked at those (starts versus replacement) numbers but sometimes you just have to do what’s right for the team, but getting out there and playing is probably the first thing that all the players want.

Ireland have come to Australia in search of a first series victory in the Southern Hemisphere since beating the Wallabies 2-0 here in 1979. Arriving as Six Nations Grand Slam winners has led to the visitors being labelled favourites, but Feek said the recent past counted for nothing and Ireland needed to reset for this Saturday’s first Test.

“We’ve got to look at what’s happened over the last four months and start again to try to create something new. That comes week by week, keep fighting for it and keep fighting for performances that would merit that,” he said.


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