12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
Ireland hooker Rory Best will captain Ulster for the first time on Friday night and the 24-year-old admits it will be "a fantastic honour."
With Best's own brother Simon, the regular Ulster captain, still out with a broken ankle and his stand-in Justin Harrison carrying a calf injury, coach Mark McCall's search for a suitable replacement did not require much thinking.
The former Ireland centre said: "Rory Best is a natural leader. He has led the Ireland Under-21s previously and he has the respect of every member of the Ulster squad, be they 20 years of age or 34. It was a very easy choice to make."
Best will lead Ulster out at Murrayfield as they bid to maintain their winning start to the season against Edinburgh, and he was admittedly taken aback when news filtered through of his captaincy role.
"It is a fantastic honour to be captain and I was very surprised when Mark asked me, but very pleased to accept it," said Best, ahead of his first game since coming on as a replacement in Ireland's 37-15 loss to Australia in June.
"The way the first two Magners League games had gone I thought coming back in I'd be lucky to make the squad, and if I made the squad to try and make an impact off the bench.
"To come straight in, to start and to be asked to be captain was a big surprise for me."
Ireland prop Simon Best was straight on the phone to offer his congratulations to his younger brother. Rory added: "Simon phoned to congratulate me and he is always there if I need to ask him for advice, because we'd be a similar sort of captain, leading more by example than ranting and raving."
With experienced players such as David Humphreys, Justin Fitzpatrick and Kieron Dawson to surround him in Scotland, Best has no fears about skippering his province at the top grade. He explained: "I captained (Belfast) Harlequins a couple of years ago and the Ireland and Ulster Under-21s for a time or two, but nothing up to this level.
"I'm in a fortunate position in that there is plenty of experience in the team to keep me right."