Paul O’Connell is the new captain of the Irish rugby team – for as long as regular skipper Brian O’Driscoll is out injured.
The Munster lock will lead Ireland into the 2012 Six Nations campaign as Dricco recovers from shoulder surgery.
Leinster star O’Driscoll won’t play for Ireland until the Autumn International series at the earliest after an operation to repair a trapped nerve.
The Irish squad began preparations for the Six Nations at a training camp in Dublin where coach Declan Kidney confirmed that vice-captain O’Connell will be promoted.
The Limerick man has captained Ireland on a number of times and also led the British and Irish Lions on their 2009 tour to South Africa.
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O’Connell said: “The greatest ambition in a player’s career is to play for your country, so to captain Ireland is a huge honour for me and I was delighted when Declan asked me to.
“I have been lucky to have played for my country on 82 occasions and during that time I have always felt that the responsibility of leadership should not just rest on the shoulders of Brian O’Driscoll and that the senior players are incredibly important.
“We are lucky in the Ireland squad that we have a couple of outstanding leaders across the pitch and I know that I will be relying on them during the championship.
“I think the squad is in a good place at the moment with the majority of the provinces going well in Europe and in the Rabo, so it’s a case of players continuing to play well to get themselves into a position to be selected in that first squad and then working hard for what I think will be an ultra competitive Six Nations.
“It was good to come back together for the first time since the World Cup and I am now just looking forward to February and to the challenge of the championship.”
Ireland coach Kidney has no worries about O’Connell’s ability to lead the team in the Championship which begins with the visit of Wales to Dublin on February 5th.
“With Brian O’Driscoll on the rehab trail at the moment, we knew that we had to plan for the captaincy and felt that it was fitting that we announce it at the Christmas camp in front of the squad,” said Kidney.
“There are a number of players with strong leadership credentials in the squad who have always been supportive of the captaincy and will be important during the championship.
“Paul has always been one of those leaders in the squad and I was delighted that he accepted the honour and the responsibilities that it brings.
“I know that he will bring through his experience to the position in the championship.”