A Tribute to Ulster Icon Rory Best

A Tribute to Ulster Icon Rory Best

A Tribute to Ulster Icon Rory Best

Rory Best” by Peter Clarke (CC BY-SA 3.0)

As the curtain comes down on his club career, Rory Best has spent 15 years being synonymous with the province of Ulster.

The hooker and Ireland captain retires from all rugby following the World Cup in Japan this autumn and has earned legendary status.

Fellow Ulster stalwart Darren Cave has also called time on his career, so going forward there are some huge boots to fill in both the front row and midfield.

While the future of the province looks secure thanks to the likes of star back Jacob Stockdale, this is the perfect time to celebrate Best and his achievements for club and country.

Success in the Pro12 back in 2005-06, as the Pro14 was then known, helped enhance his international claims. Best initially competed with Jerry Flannery for Ireland’s number two jersey, but emerged from the individual competition as a senior player and later leader.

Playing alongside modern Irish rugby greats Tommy Bowe, Gordon D’Arcy, Paul O’Connell, Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara, he won four Six Nations Championships and as many Triple Crowns – awarded to one of the four Home Nations who beat all others.

In amongst those triumphs were two Grand Slams, the second of which in 2018 saw Best himself lift the trophy as skipper. Those two flawless Six Nations campaigns came nearly a decade apart, highlighting what remarkable longevity he’s enjoyed.

Best won the first of four Six Nations titles and two Grand Slams in 2009” (CC BY 2.0) by ArunMarsh

Being a front row forward Best has always been in the thick of things for scrums. In any other era, his talent as a hooker would’ve received Test recognition from the British and Irish Lions with whom he toured twice.

Best sadly never earned a full cap for the Lions, but did play tour matches. With Ireland, long-serving head coach Joe Schmidt often turned to him to lead the team out when O’Connell wasn’t fit to play and made Best permanent captain in 2016 – the year after back-to-back Six Nations successes.

That Lions snub apart, the only thing missing from his international career is a proper run in the Rugby World Cup. After being selected for the three previous editions, Best prepares for a fourth and final global tournament having never gone beyond the quarter-finals.

According to the rugby union betting available with bet365, Ireland are odds-on at 8/11 to reach a first-ever World Cup semi, 2/1 to make the final and 5/1 third-favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup itself.

Fairytale endings are the stuff of dreams, but Best and Schmidt have a blend of youth and experience in the setup which – if gelling as they did in 2018 – gives the Irish a chance of reaching the business end of the tournament.

Much depends on Ireland keeping their best players fit with lock Iain Henderson and kicker Jonny Sexton often among those singled out for rough treatment by the opposition.

Should they remain injury free, and the likes of explosive winger Stockdale and Sexton’s halfback partner Conor Murray perform on the high level already demonstrated, then Best could well ride off into the sunset with a World Cup.