Fit-again Ireland Darren Cave says that his club skipper Rory Best will make a superb captain for the national team.
Cave, who will be in Ulster’s do-or-die Champions Cup line-up against Oyonnax tomorrow following six weeks on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, says Best has been the go-to player for years.
“I think Rory has been one of the main reasons this club has turned itself round from when I started playing,” said Cave, who unfortunately will not be under his command, after missing out on Joe Schmidt’s 35-man Six Nations squad.
“We’ve signed well and certain people upstairs have done a good job and got good signings in, but when things stopped going well in 2007-08, Rory had plenty of offers. He could have gone away and it would have been very easy but he didn’t.
“He’s been the one who the team was built around. He wasn’t captain for a while when Johann (Muller) was here, but he’s always been the main man, the go-to leader.
“I think he’d be a fantastic captain for his country and on a personal level I’ve got a lot of time for him, I like him a lot. It will be a great honour for him.”
Meanwhile, Cave’s likely midfield partner on Saturday, Jared Payne, who was called up by Ireland, was glad to get some action last week after a frustrating time with a foot problem that required surgery.
Payne, who played a full 80 minutes last week in the defeat to Saracens, said that it’s up to Ulster to do the job then wait.
“All we can do is make sure we deliver what we have to, and then hope other things go in our favour,” said Payne, who would be disappointed not to squeeze through into the quarter-finals.
“Of course it is not the end of the world if we do not, the sun will still come up the next day, but it would be disappointing. You want to be in the quarters. We think we are good enough to get there,” said Payne who was delighted to get back into action again and not worry about the foot injury.
“When you play a game of rugby, it’s all about trying to win and if you worry about the injury on the pitch you shouldn’t be there.
“The injured foot was all good but it has been for a while. There were a few other issues we had coming back in the rehab, but everything is good as gold now,” said Payne praised the clinical Saracens outfit.
“The result was disappointing, but Saracens are a very good team, stick to their game plan and rarely deviate off that.
“We started reasonably, and then they fought back and took control of the game which was just too good for us,” explained Payne who says that the togetherness of Saracens is the key.
“They have been together as a group a lot longer than we have, stuck to the same agenda with a few layers and essentially they have got a very good team and they know what they are about.
“We can certainly learn from them, as that is where we want to be and we can certainly take a few lessons out of last weekend. We obviously haven’t taken things on board for a few years as our performances against really big teams have not improved,” said Payne, who believes that assuming that you are going to walk away with five points against Oyonnax could be a dangerous thing.
“Yes, but that’s what we have to look at, as it is the truth. We need five points to have a real chance of qualifying, so that’s what we will be chasing and if we can’t deal with, we probably don’t deserve to be in the quarter-finals.”
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