Rory Best will captain Ireland for this season then head coach Joe Schmidt will reassess his World Cup 2019 plans next summer.

Schmidt told Best in the off-season he wanted the Ulster hooker to lead Ireland for this campaign, and then review the situation.

The 104-cap stalwart will be 37 by the time the 2019 World Cup starts and only John Hayes has been capped for Ireland at that age.

Best revealed his pride at being reassigned the captaincy for another year, insisting taskmaster boss Schmidt would not have flinched at making a change now.

“If Joe had wanted to make a change of captain, he would have made the change,” said Best, who has shaken off a hamstring problem to lead Ireland’s autumn Test opener against South Africa in Dublin on Saturday.

“But he said early enough in one of the summer camps that as long as I was happy to continue, that I would be captain again, and then we’d reassess at the end of the season, on where we were, what’s going on, and how I felt.

“And I suppose that’s probably something for the end of the season.

“But it was nice to be asked again. When you’re in that position you never like to assume anything, so it was good when Joe said they’d like me to do it again for the season.

“It gave me the confidence that he liked what I was doing, that he felt I was doing a good job.”

The 35-year-old Best led Ireland to the milestone maiden victory over the All Blacks in Chicago last November and captained the midweek team in the summer’s British and Irish Lions tour.

When quizzed on his chances of leading Ireland at the next World Cup, Best replied: “I think it’s a difficult one, because you’re never too sure what’s round the corner.

“It is a cliche, I’m sure you’re bored of hearing it, but it is about the game tomorrow.

“With a side the quality of South Africa, it’s important for us to gel quickly and put in a performance in a massive Test. Looking further afield would be foolish for us with the amount of quality coming to the Aviva tomorrow.”

Best admitted his captaincy is rendered all the easier by the increasing leadership qualities running through Ireland’s ranks.

“Captaincy only becomes a burden when you’re looking around for people to share the load with you,” said Best.

“We have young guys really growing into leaders, as well as some vastly experienced captains at all levels.

“Young guys like Tadhg Furlong and Iain Henderson are stepping up, but they also have people to learn from.

“And all of them I would lean on for help and support, you can’t do it all yourself at this level.”