When Paul O’Connell was first to step into the room at Tuesday’s Ireland press conference it raised the possibility that he was about to be named as the new team captain, succeeding Brian O’Driscoll in the role.
But the towering lock quickly exited and was replaced at the top table by Irish coach Declan Kidney, manager Paul McNaughton and Brian O’Driscoll, the man who has captained his country 51 times.
Within seconds, Kidney confirmed that O’Driscoll had agreed to remain on as skipper for the 2009 RBS 6 Nations Championship.
The Corkman said: “I am delighted that Brian has agreed to do so. He has the leadership qualities which are vital at this level.
“We are very lucky that we have a lot of good leaders in our group with a lot of guys who have stepped up before.
“But Brian has been doing an exceptionally good job and he is the first to admit that it is not job for one person.
“He needs good leaders around him as well and he knows he has them. Only one person can be captain and Brian has the appetite for doing it.
“We gave him some space over the past few weeks to get himself up and going again because he is inclined to put himself out there for the team.
“He was not feeling the best over Christmas but he is coming back to form again now,” Kidney added.
The player himself said: “It is a great honour to captain your country. One person is the captain and it is great to have other leaders around the pitch such as Ronan O’Gara, Paul O’Connell and Rory Best.
“I spoke to them and to a couple of other senior players and it was agreed that I should continue.
“To be honest with you I don’t know what it is like not to be captain. I don’t know any different as I have been captain for so long and wojuld have to jog my memory as to when I was not captain.
“I am feeling a little bit better now and hope to get back to the form of old.”
Asked if he has contemplated the possibility of captaining the Lions for their 2009 tour to South Africa, O’Driscoll replied: “I have not thought about it. It is out of my control and my main aim is to do well with Ireland one game at a time and let what comes later follow on. I have not had contact with the Lions.”
Kidney explained that there are two aspects to being captain, on the field and off, and O’Driscoll has a lot to offer in both. He has the appetite for doing both.
Kidney also explained that they did not announce the captaincy until this week to allow the Leinster centre concentrate on his own game.
The focus of Kidney, his management team and the players is very much now on the fast-approaching Six Nations and Ireland’s opening game against France on Saturday week.
O’Driscoll said: “France is the main focus just now and we must make ourselves very competititive in the first game. We must put ourselves in the position to win games and that is our aim.”
Looking forward to his first championship experience as a head coach, Kidney predictably talked up Ireland’s first opponents France.
“We have four clubs to pick from. France have 14 and that indicates an advantage they have going into games against us.
“But we will prepare as best we can and hope to play to such a standard that supporters will be given something to shout about and to generate the necessary atmosphere at Croke Park.
“Every game is like a final. I have been an admirer of the French for years and and two years ago they got a try and conversion to beat us in the last minute.
“We will prepare as best we can and will give it our best shot,” he said.
On the possibility of bringing new players into the Irish team during the championship and beyond, Kidney reasoned: “If you hand out international caps just to experiment then you are probably devaluing the jersey.
“We will see how players perform in training and we have put together a programme (for 2009) whereby players will get extra matches.
“We realise that we will be playing Canada on a day when Munster or Leinster could be in the Heineken Cup final.
“You cannot expect ten new caps to go out and win an international. It just does not happen like that.”