London: New Ireland captain Rory Best said on Wednesday he had "big shoes to fill" when he leads the back-to-back Six Nations champions out to start their title defence against Wales in Dublin next month.
Best, who will win his 90th cap on February 7, takes over the captaincy from Paul O'Connell who retired from international rugby after last year's World Cup, a disappointing one for Ireland.
Lock forward O'Connell was a talisman for Ireland, as were his predessors Brian O'Driscoll and Keith Wood.
"Every time there is a change you are filling big shoes," Best told reporters at the Six Nations media launch.
"It's a big challenge. The one thing that certainly Paul did really well was that he didn't change how he went about things.
"You don't have to revinvent things ... I'll try to lead by example while leaning very heavily on senior players."
Best was given a ringing endorsement by coach Joe Schmidt who said the hooker was a natural choice to take over from O'Connell.
"As coaches all we did was endorse the feeling from the playing group," said the New Zealander.
"He is our most capped international and his experience and performances have been first rate. Off the pitch he's a consumate professional."
At the World Cup, the men in green had high hopes of reaching at least the semi-finals for the first time but again bowed out at the quarter-final stage following a crushing 43-20 defeat by Argentina.
As well as O'Connell's retirement Schmidt has had to contend with a host of injuries.
Ireland will be without the injured trio of Iain Henderson, Tommy Bowe and Peter O'Mahony for the entire tournament, while Mike Ross, Cian Healy and Chris Henry could return from injury for the final three matches.
There was better news over pivotal flyhalf Jonny Sexton, who Schmidt said was fit and had recovered from a head injury suffered while playing for Leinster at the weekend.
Sexton has suffered a succession of concussions in his career but Schmidt said his latest knock was not serious.
"As far as Jonny's concerned he's keen to be ready to go in 11 days' time. All we can do is go on medical opinion. When they give the all-clear, we trust them."