Johnny Sexton will captain Ireland for the first time on Thursday when they face Russia in the third pool game of their Rugby World Cup campaign.
The Leinster out-half has been joint vice-captain alongside Peter O’Mahony for some time now and has previously taken over the duties during games when Rory Best was replaced.
However, Thursday’s game marks the first time that Sexton will lead an Irish side from the start. The 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year admitted it was a massive honour to be asked to lead his country.
“It’s a massive honour. I spoke to Joe this morning, so I only found out myself over the last few hours. I haven’t even had a chance to tell my family or anything, but I’m sure they’re going to be very proud as well.
“It’s something that I’ve thought about since I was a kid, something I’ve made a lot of decisions around, trying to get there one day. It has taken a while but it was worth the wait and I’m incredibly proud.
“I want to be captain now of a good performance and a good win in a World Cup game, so that’s my main focus – I don’t think anything changes really for me. I have a big responsibility in the team anyway so nothing has changed.”
Ireland will face Russia on Thursday in the Kobe Misaki Stadium.
The game will be played in humid conditions under a closed roof with Sexton admitting that Ireland will have to mindful of the conditions.
“We watched the game last night (Scotland v Samoa) and it looked very slippy. We watched the England game as well (against USA in Kobe). Obviously, when you hear it’s an indoor stadium you think air-con and probably a little bit cooler, but it’s quite the opposite we hear.
“It’s something we’re going to have to be mindful of. Even when you play outside the ball gets pretty slippy. Against Japan, in the first half (the ball) was bone dry but the longer the game went on the sweatier everyone got. The ball was like a bar of soap.
“It’s something we have to be conscious of, playing smartly – we can’t just go out and run everything. But we have a good plan in place and hopefully it won’t be too big a factor.”