Andy Farrell has endorsed Rory Best as “a contender” to captain the British and Irish Lions next summer.
Ireland assistant Farrell is expected to be named as Lions defence coach when boss Warren Gatland confirms his back room staff on December 7.
And former England coach Farrell has hailed Ireland skipper Best as among the nucleus of stars who can be under serious consideration to lead the Lions’ three-Test tour to New Zealand.
Best will win his 100th Ireland cap in Saturday’s autumn Test clash with Australia in Dublin, amid firm backing over his Lions credentials from Farrell.
“There’s no doubt that he’s a contender when he’s doing as good a job as he is for his national team and his national team is doing pretty well,” said Farrell, of Best’s potential candidacy as Lions captain.
“He’s a big part of that so he has to be right up there doesn’t he?”
Wales flanker Sam Warburton and England hooker Dylan Hartley have so far been the bookies’ front-runners to assume the Lions captaincy next summer.
But since assuming Ireland’s armband Best has led Ireland to a first-ever victory over the Springboks on South African soil in June, and also a maiden win over New Zealand this autumn.
Ulster’s evergreen hooker Best has been roundly hailed as producing the finest rugby of his career, despite hitting 34 years of age. And Farrell insisted the gritty farmer’s son has the cool demeanour that marks out the sharpest leaders.
Farrell’s backing certainly carries weight given the former dual-code international is all-but inked in as part of Gatland’s Lions coaching staff.
“As a player given the ups and downs of international rugby, when you’ve got 100 caps you’ve certainly been through a hell of a lot,” said Farrell.
“Your experience of how you deal not just with your own game and the players around you for the feel of the game in the white-hot heat of the moment is priceless.
“That’s what I’ve been super impressed with: not only is Rory laying his body on the line but his decision-making and his calmness under pressure in the big games that we’ve been in, certainly since I’ve been here in the last six months, has been fantastic to watch.
“That’s proper leadership, that’s what that is, so anyone who has that skill or that trait has to be up there.”