Best: English-based players getting a raw deal

NEIL BEST believes Ireland coach Declan Kidney hasn’t done enough to track the progress of Irish players plying their trade in England.

The Worcester Warriors flanker says he’s baffled that his former Northampton team-mates James Downey and Roger Wilson haven’t been featuring for Ireland, despite playing key roles in their run to the Heineken Cup final.

Back-row Wilson played once for Ireland on a tour of Japan in 2005 while centre Downey has never been capped at senior level.

“Declan Kidney has a massive backroom staff and one of them is Mark Tainton, the kicking coach,” said Best, who won 18 caps for Ireland between 2005 and 2007.

“He’s based in Bristol and I see him at a lot of games over here. There’s no reason other people like him can’t get around to games in England to keep an eye on guys.

“It seems that you’re not going to get a look-in if you’re playing outside Ireland, unless you’re one of the main guys like Tommy Bowe or Geordan Murphy. I don’t know why that’s the case but I think it’s a good excuse for them not to bother with the rest.

“Roger Wilson and James Downey will be playing in a Heineken Cup final against Leinster in a couple of weeks. They’ve both played probably 80% of Northampton’s games this season. They’re stalwarts of that team but neither of them have been playing for Ireland or even getting a look-in.

“It’ll be a good battle to watch James going in against Brian O’Driscoll and Roger against Jamie Heaslip. Maybe they’ll be brought in if they play well but I do feel bad for them both.”

Best is on the verge of a return to Premiership rugby in England. Worcester take on Cornish Pirates in the Championship promotion play-off final, the first leg of which takes place on Wednesday evening.

The Belfast man hasn’t played for Ireland since Declan Kidney took over. His last appearance in a green shirt came in the defeat to Argentina at the 2007 World Cup and he accepts that his own international career is well and truly over.

“I look at the Ireland back-row and think you need to be world-class to get in there,” said Best.

“The standard of back-rows Ireland have is pretty spectacular and you probably need to be one of the best in the world to get in.

“I’m 32 now so I don’t think Declan will be phoning me at any stage, unless there’s some sort of major injury crisis. I enjoyed all the times I played for Ireland but I think it’s over for me at this stage.”


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