Rory Best, who will win his 200th cap for Ulster in Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 inter-provincial derby in Belfast says that, if selected, he is ready to lead Ireland again in the Autumn Test series.
The 35-year-old enjoyed his first run-out last weekend since the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand after sustaining a hamstring injury in pre-season.
Best came through the trip to La Rochelle with Ulster without any problems following his long lay-off and he’s hopeful of being named as the Ireland captain when the squad is announced this week.
“It was always said as we were going along, just not to push things and not to risk it for any setbacks,” he said.
“I had my own idea of timeframes. But I certainly haven’t heard anything to the contrary about the captaincy. It’s something I love doing and something I would love to continue to do. We will see how we get through this weekend, but I haven’t heard anything from Joe. Maybe I’ll turn the phone on or to aeroplane mode anyway.”
Best is also relishing a return to national duty for the November internationals.
“Yes, it is a massive month. It’s an opportunity for the Irish team. First of all we have these inter-provincial derbies and then we go into an autumn series. We want to make a bit of a statement to say where we are and push on and get the Championship back. These are three games that we have to perform really, really well in. If you do that, we can win all three.
“That’s got to be our goal — achieving the consistency we had over the last two years.”
Best also said the loss of Simon Zebo to France will be a massive blow to Ireland and to his native Munster.
“I think Simon is a great character, and he’ll do what is right for him. He’s probably in a different situation to most Irish players in that his girlfriend, the mother of his children, is from Spain, so he has ties to the continent. Of all players in Ireland, he is the sort of person who would have possibly gone at some stage.
“From an Irish point of view, and also I’m sure from Munster as well, it would have been nice to get another couple of years out of him before he went.
“There’s no doubt he’s still well within his prime and still well capable of playing international rugby and top European rugby for Munster. But ultimately he has his reasons for going and knowing Simon it will be what he feels is right for him at this stage of his career.”
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