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DUBLIN, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Ireland No. 8 Jamie Heaslip will take over from Brian O'Driscoll as captain for this year's Six Nations, coach Declan Kidney said on Thursday, bringing an end to the centre's 10-year stint as skipper.
Heaslip captained Ireland in the November tests in his Leinster team mate's absence through injury and although O'Driscoll has returned to the squad, Kidney said the time was right for a change of leader.
"Obviously he'd be very disappointed, Brian has always told you what an honour it is to captain Ireland and that will never change. He accepts my reasons for doing it," Kidney told a news conference.
"I don't think people realise sometimes the amount of weight that would be on a captain's shoulders and Brian's been hugely generous to the team and I just feel that now is the right time to allow him to concentrate on himself, to get himself right."
The 33-year-old O'Driscoll, who captained Ireland for the first time in 2002, said in a statement that he accepted the reasons behind the decision, knowing that the next rugby World Cup in 2015 was most likely "a bridge too far". (Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Ed Osmond)