RORY Best is to captain Ireland during their North American tour later this month.
Poyntzpass man Best, who also captains Ulster, was given the honour by Ireland coach Declan Kidney last night (Monday).
Regular Irish captain Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara, Paul O'Connell - who is captaining the Lions side during their tour of South Africa - and Jerry Flannery, who kept Best out of the side which won the Six Nations in April - will all be missing from Declan Kidney's squad.
The tour of North America sees Ireland take on Canada at Thunderbird Park on Saturday May 23, and then on Sunday May 31 the Irish go to Buck Shaw Park to face the United States.
"It's a big honour for me to be given the captaincy and I can't wait to go out there and lead Ireland," he told the Leader.
"It will be good to get away and the trip will be a good marker to see where we are as a wider squad because we will have something like 13 guys away with the Lions.
"It will also give the guys who make the squad a chance to go out and compete and perform and show what they can do."
Ireland coach Kidney said when announcing the squad, "When we confirmed the tour back in January, we were always hopeful some of the provinces and players would be involved in the Heineken or Challenge Cup finals and we would also be without any players selected for the British and Irish Lions tour.
"We felt that it would be a chance for the national management to work closely with a larger pool of players than we would normally do during the season and for players to come through at this level.
"We are continuing to try and build a squad and this tour is a real chance for players to stake a claim for the November games and next years championship."
Wearing the captain's armband is an incredible end to the season for Best whose Ulster side has had a topsy-turvy season.
On Friday night he lead the Ulstermen to a 14-12 victory over Connacht in the Magners League.
The Poyntzpass man consistently transfers his eye-catching provincial form onto the international stage and has scored tries against the Pacific Islanders, Wales and Georgia.