Best aiming for extended farewell with Barbarians

Rory Best says he hopes to play in the Barbarians’ next two games after captaining the side on his debut at Twickenham on Saturday.

Best aiming for extended farewell with Barbarians

Rory Best says he hopes to play in the Barbarians’ next two games after captaining the side on his debut at Twickenham on Saturday. The 33-31 defeat by Fiji had been billed as the former Ulster and Ireland hooker’s final game before retirement.

However, the 37-year-old said: “We’ll see how the body stands up and then we’ll make a decision.”

He will travel with the Baa-Baas squad to face Brazil next week, before they take on Wales in Cardiff. Best, who won the last of his 124 Ireland caps when they were knocked out of the 2019 World Cup by New Zealand in the quarter-finals, said it was a great honour to be asked to play for the Barbarians.

“It was incredibly special. It is a unique club and I’m delighted to be invited to be a part of it,” said Best. “You be have to invited to play for them, you just don’t get picked and any rugby fan knows what they are all about.

“It was brilliant. There were guys I’ve played against for years and some I didn’t know so well. I really enjoyed it.”

As is tradition with the Baa-Baas, players take to the field with their club socks along with the famous black-and-white jersey, with Best reflecting that it was quite a poignant moment as he adorned one Ulster sock and one Banbridge sock.

He joked:

They are both clubs that have meant a lot to me over a long period of time and I’m incredibly honoured to represent both of them here. I’m wearing both to try and keep everyone happy

The Barbarians take on Brazil on Wednesday before travelling to Cardiff on 30 November, where Warren Gatland will coach the Baa-Baas in his first game since leaving Wales after the World Cup.

Meanwhile Italy coach Conor O’Shea has resigned six months before his contract was due to expire. Irishman O’Shea, who has been linked in the media with a post in the England set-up, took charge of Azzurri in March 2016 and was contracted until the end of May 2020.

“I loved every minute I spent in Italy and I really believe in what we have done,” O’Shea said. “We have started a process and generated a new, well-founded hope but I also believe that the end of the Rugby World Cup represents the best time for everyone to make changes.”

Italy won nine and lost 31 of 40 tests under O’Shea, losing all of their Six Nations fixtures and failing to get out of their opening-round pool at the recently concluded World Cup. The former Ireland fullback had a wider remit than just running the test side, however, and believes he has made good progress in setting up the structures to allow the Italian game to flourish.

“The youngsters who are coming in are joining a system that can only improve in the years to come if the right decisions continue to be made,” O’Shea added. “The job of all of us is to leave the shirt in a better place than the one in which we found it (and) I sincerely hope I have left the Italian rugby in a better position.”

The Daily Telegraph last month reported that O’Shea would be installed in a new post at England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) before the start of the 2020 Six Nations, working closely with head coach Eddie Jones.

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