EUROPEAN CUP RUGBY: Rory Best returns to lead Ulster against Clermont

Rory Best in action against Exeter Chiefs in the previous round of the European Champions Cup
Rory Best in action against Exeter Chiefs in the previous round of the European Champions Cup

Talismanic figure Rory Best is set to lead Ulster into this weekend’s crunch European Champions Cup pool tie against Clermont in Belfast.

Having just captained Ireland to one of their most successful calendar years, the international hooker will be handed his Province’s captain’s armband on Saturday afternoon.

Ulster have co-captains in Andrew Trimble and Rob Herring.

However, with Trimble ruled out injured and Herring as Best’s replacement, the Irish skipper would be the expected choice.

Chris Henry, Franco van der Merwe and Paddy Jackson are among some of the players who have led Ulster in the past.

But it is likely to fall on the former captain, Best this weekend.

Ireland’s most capped hooker was inspirational during the summer tour to South Africa and the November Guinness Test Series.

Ireland became the first European side since 2003 to win against the three main Southern Hemisphere nations in a rugby calendar year.

Having won for the first time away to South Africa, Ireland made history by beating New Zealand for the first time ever in Chicago.

Although they lost to the back-to-back World Champions in Dublin two weeks later, Ireland bounced back to beat Australia.

Best capped a memorable year by becoming the first Ulster player to reach 100 caps for his country.

Best and Jackson missed last week’s Guinness PRO12 bonus point win in Cardiff due to Irish player welfare management, but both will return to face the French side at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday.

However, as well as being without fellow Irish internationals, Jared Payne and Trimble, Ulster are also missing Craig Gilroy and Stuart Olding.

Ulster have to win the game to keep their chances in Europe alive.