Ireland captain Best ruled out of June Series

by AAP

Australia will be facing an Ireland team missing their talismanic captain Rory Best after the hooker was ruled out for the forthcoming three-test series with a hamstring injury.

Best, who led Ireland to a Six Nations grand slam this year, will be replaced by Munster hooker Niall Scannell in an otherwise near full-strength touring squad, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed on Thursday.

Scannell, who has won seven caps for his country, will compete with the similarly internationally inexperienced Rob Herring of Ulster for the number two jersey, while Johnny Sexton and Peter O'Mahoney will share captaincy duties.

Ireland confirmed Best's injury on twitter, before boss Schmidt explained how his squad may handle the 35-year-old's absence against the Wallabies.

"Rory's not going to tour," said Schmidt.

"He had a hamstring issue that kept him out of the game against Ospreys and we felt he was really going in the right direction and he would be ready for game one, definitely for game two. But he's just not quite where we need him to be.

"Because a number of these things have just become apparent, we've two vice captains in Peter O'Mahony and Johnny Sexton and a strong leadership group.

"It will depend a bit on selection and what we feel we need at any given time. It could be that Pete and Johnny take the team on and share the load."

Now that Best has failed to recover in time, it leaves Leinster's Sean Cronin heading the queue to to start the first Test, in Brisbane on June 9.

The Irish are hoping for their first win in Australia since 1979.

Rob Herring is the other hooker in Ireland's touring party, with Schmidt now to decide who will skipper the team.

Schmidt's initial installation of Best as captain for the summer tour had pushed the Ulster star one step closer towards skippering Ireland at the 2019 World Cup.

The Wallabies play a three-Test series against Ireland, kicking off in Brisbane on June 9 at Suncorp Stadium. Buy tickets for the Tests here.