Ireland hooker Rory Best praised the support he received from the Ireland and Ulster rugby family following his initial omission from last summer’s Lions tour as a “massive factor” behind his signing of a new IRFU contract.
Best, 31, yesterday put pen to paper on a two-year central contract that will see him remain with his native Ulster until June 2016.
Best, who won his 70th Ireland cap against New Zealand last month, had been overlooked by Lions head coach Warren Gatland when his 34-man squad to tour Australia was announced in May. But rival hooker Dylan Hartley’s suspension on the eve of the tour saw the Irishman called up and he made four appearances, captaining the side against the ACT Brumbies.
“I am pleased to have signed for a further two years. It is a massive honour to play for Ireland and Ulster,” Best said.
“The support that I received when I missed out on the initial Lions squad was a massive factor in me making the decision to stay.
“That made me feel very special and underlined to me that Ulster is more than a team, it is a community and a rugby family. I want to keep playing for Ireland for as long as I can and to try and win a few more things in the green jersey.”
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne described Best as a “a great servant to Irish rugby over the past 10 years for both Ireland and Ulster” while the province’s director of rugby, David Humphreys, said: “Rory Best is the cornerstone of the Ulster Rugby team and leads by example.
“You would struggle to find anyone who is more committed on the rugby field, nor someone who is more passionate about playing for his province. He has represented Ulster for the best part of a decade now and he has achieved some of the highest honours that the game has to offer. He will be a key player in our team as we continue to build and improve in the coming years and I am delighted that he has signed this new contract.”
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