Iain Henderson: Ulster skipper not in the hunt for Ireland captaincy

Iain Henderson charges forward against Scotland in Yokohama
Henderson featured in all five of Ireland's World Cup games in Japan

Ulster second row Iain Henderson has admitted that the Ireland captaincy is "a step I'm not ready for yet".

The 27-year-old was named as his province's new skipper last summer following the retirement of Rory Best.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is yet to name his captain with the Six Nations less than three weeks away.

"Looking at the other candidates I would be confident that they would be able to do a better job than me at this moment in time," said Henderson.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Sportsound Extra Time, Henderson revealed that although keen to be a leader within the squad he was not harbouring any ambition of becoming captain.

"Anyone who gets the opportunity to lead a team and play for their country would jump at that opportunity," he said.

"Whether it's achievable or not I suppose is a different matter.

"There's obviously such a strength in depth throughout Ireland now with Leinster producing so many good players and leaders - same with Munster."

Johnny Sexton and Peter O'Mahony, both captains of their provinces, are the most obvious candidates to assume the role having previously led the side in Best's absence.

Peter O'Mahony and Jonathan Sexton
Peter O'Mahony and Johnny Sexton are two of Ireland's most experienced campaigners

Lock James Ryan, 23, has been touted as a future Ireland skipper while Rhys Ruddock has amassed plenty of leadership experience with Leinster.

Henderson started four of Ireland's five matches at last year's World Cup in Japan. Despite 53 international caps, he does not feel best suited to the role.

"The leaders that are in the Ireland squad, similar to myself, have played with unbelievable captains in their time and similarly will have learned from a lot of them," he said.

"I have every faith in Andy Farrell to make the right decision and I know the right decision will be somebody who we're definitely able to get behind and be able to support.

"Hopefully they will feel the leadership from the rest of the squad as I feel from the squad at Ulster."

'Like going into a new school year with a different teacher'

The first task facing Farrell is to reinvigorate an Irish side that failed to perform in Japan, falling at the quarter-finals stage for the seventh time.

Ireland begin their Six Nations campaign with home games against Scotland and Wales before travelling to take on England at Twickenham.

Farrell is a familiar face to the squad having served as defence coach from 2016 until the departure of Joe Schmidt after Ireland's World Cup exit.

Andy Farrell
Farrell joined the Ireland coaching staff in 2016

"There was a different feeling in the squad," said Henderson of Farrell's pre-Christmas 'stocktake' to which 45 players were invited.

"One way you could liken it is to going into school to start a new year but with a different teacher.

"I have no doubt in my mind that things will change.

"I think if you look at the performances of the provinces and the players that are in there, the opportunities for the coaching staff at Ireland to produce a team capable of winning the Six Nations is not unrealistic."

Hear the full interview with Ulster captain Iain Henderson on Sportsound Extra Time from 18:05 GMT on Monday.