Rob Herring admitted it was a shock to be handed the Ulster captain’s armband while Rory Best is at the world cup.
The hooker skippered Ulster in the two pre season friendlies and will have the job when the PRO12 starts on Friday night at home against the Ospreys.
“It’s a massive honour and I was a bit surprised to be honest,” said Herring.
“I’m happy and it is something I’m looking forward to and hopefully I can be a good leader in the squad.
“I haven’t had much experience of captaincy in the last four or five years. I was captain a bit at school, not in rugby but surfing. I have always been in leadership groups at U21’s but I have not been captain in a while.
“It is a bit different for me and it will be a new experience.
“There are a lot of guys in the squad that have been around for a while that have captained in the past and they are all really good leaders and they make it really easy for me by helping me out and showing me the ropes because I’m not really the most vocal guy to start with and they are making my job easier. All the boys have been really supportive and there was a bit of banter when they all found out.”
One part of the captain’s job Herring is used to is chatting with the referee.
“As a hooker you tend to talk to the referee anyway around scrum time I guess now I just have to be more aware of what is happening around me and just try to get messages across.
“It is a bit of a sensitive topic talking to referees and you have to approach each ref differently, but hopefully that is something I learn over the next few weeks and get more accustomed to it.”
Herring’s reign as captain hasn’t got off to the best of starts with defeats against Leinster and Edinburgh but the Cape Town native isn’t too worried about how pre season has gone.
“If you look at the Edinburgh result there were certain areas of the game where we won’t be happy with. In general we attacked a lot and the first defence we had was 31 minutes we attacked a lot created pressure but maybe didn’t finish as well as we wanted to.”
“In terms of kicking for goal there were six or seven opportunities that we could have taken but Doaky thought we were better off working on things than taking points and it was a different mentality to what we’ll have this week.
“If we get a penalty in front of the posts against the Ospreys we’ll take it where in Edinburgh we took a scrum.”
Herring is backing the Ulster players omitted from the World Cup squad to put in big performances.
“It is still a big game for Ireland this week and it is always massive physical against England. I think anyone that has been dropped from the Ireland squad myself included is to try and prove Joe wrong.
“We don’t want to prove him right and the only way we can do that is to play well for Ulster and if opportunities come then a call could follow.”
somebody getting injured isn’t the best way to get into a world cup but if it comes we want to be ready and show we have put our hands up.”
It’s a big start for Ulster as they meet the Ospreys both sides losing in the semi final playoffs last season.
“We know the Ospreys are a quality side who have a lot of depth in their squad, we’re both affected with the world cup but it is going to be like that for the next three months, it’s massively important for us to get a win this week and start the campaign off right.
“I think the squad depth is something we have been working on for the last two to three years and hopefully we can show it now with guys who haven’t had much game time can step up.
“We’re all confident in the squad we have.”
The Ospreys are missing 13 players due to world cup commitments but Herring is expecting a hard night at the coal face.
“The Ospreys have a big physical pack and they are well drilled, they know what they are about, if you look at the difference between the home and away game last year, we won the home one pretty comfortably and when we lost away it came down to the physicality, we just weren’t physical enough away and it became a bit of a slug fest which let them into the game so the big thing for us is to dominate them up front and if we get that momentum hopefully our backs can do the job.”