Rory Best tempted by move to Bristol but put family first

Rory Best admits he was tempted by a potential move to Bristol – but put family first.

Rory Best tempted by move to Bristol but put family first

Rory Best admits he was tempted by a potential move to Bristol – but put family first.

The Ireland legend retired after November's World Cup, but went on to play three games for the Barbarians in recent weeks.

Reports from England downplayed the link with the hooker, but speaking at a Specsavers event in Dublin today, the 37 year old admitted he was almost seduced by the idea of linking up with Pat Lam and John Muldoon.

“There was nothing [options] really and then Bristol came in and it was almost like a bit of a snowball effect, there were a couple of other options after that,” Best said.

“I think if I was ever going to go anywhere, Bristol would probably have been the one.

“It was actually quite nice – you think you are done and then you get this option and you sort of go 'Maybe I am not completely done after-all.'

“The thought of someone wanting you is quite a nice feeling whenever you are retired or about to retire.

“You look at Bristol, Pat Lam is someone who I admired as a player. I sort of used to be a Newcastle Falcons supporter, watching him there and then what he did at Connacht and what he is doing at Bristol.

“It's sort of something that you looked at went 'If you ever wanted to get into coaching to learn and to go from Joe to him would be incredible.'

“Obviously with John Afoa, Charles Piutau, Kevin Geary (head of strength of conditioning), the physio is from Ulster as well, Rory Murray, John Muldoon. There are so many people.

“For a bit, you are kind of looking at it going 'This is an incredible opportunity.'

“I think in the end, I looked at it and went: The family are ready to have me home. When you tell the young kids something, that's it. It's hard to change. They are kind of going 'We want to be at home.'

“Ultimately. I wanted to be at home and that was really the long and short of it. As flattered as I was, and as I said, if ever there was a club you would consider going to at the minute, with what they are doing, that's the team.”

Best admits there were also other tempting offers to move abroad during his 15 years with Ulster, including French giants Toulouse.

“There were a couple of times, yeah. There were a couple of French offers,” he said.

“The problem with France is you never really sure if they actually want you. And with Irish players too, they are always a wee bit cautious because there have been a few examples in the past where they go to a Toulouse or a Clermont or Toulon, get a figure and go back to the IRFU and say 'Well, this is what I can get – you need to match that.' And wasting everyone's time.

“But I suppose the first one was Biarritz in and around the time they lost to Munster in '06. When they were European Cup contenders, there was potentially an option there.

“There was another one in Toulouse a couple of years later and then Clermont around 2011 was an option as well.

“It never really went very far because it was always 'Right, let's talk to the IRFU. If we are not happy with what they offer, then it might force my hand.'

“But the IRFU have always been good. I think I was measured enough to know that first of all, I want to play for Ulster and secondly I want to play for Ireland.

“They are the two teams I have only ever wanted to play for. I know you get a lot better managed and looked after.

“Ultimately, the IRFU do pay. Especially if you can factor in bonuses with Ireland, the IRFU pay – certainly back in those days as well as anyone.”

With hindsight, though, would he prefer a medal to cash?

“Part of the problem is that if you go chasing medals somewhere else and then when you leave, it might be a reflection of you as a player if that happens.

“Ultimately, you always had a dream that Ulster would produce something. There have been some good promises along the way, there have been some fairly empty promises that we were going to do this, that and the other.

“You talk about looking back with regrets and look, I would have loved to have won more things with the club.

“International is incredibly special because you are pitting yourself against the best players in the world, so to win at that level you really had to produce something.

“But when you win at club level, these are the people you spend everyday with. These are the core of your friends.

“To win something with them would be incredibly special and there is no doubt in '06 [when Ulster won the Pro12], I underestimated that.

“It was my second season, I kind of went 'So this is what professional rugby is about, you come in and play for your province and win things.

“You took that for granted and that's a regret that I took that for granted."

Rory Best, a Specsavers Audiologists’ Ambassador, was launching the Specsavers Grandparent of the Year Award 2019.

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