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Rory Best: 'The tackle that broke my arm didn't feel bad until I heard a snap'

The Ulster hooker has rediscovered his form and throwing touch but an old Scottish foe lies in wait.

Rory Best goes over for an Ireland try against New Zealand.
Rory Best goes over for an Ireland try against New Zealand.
Image: INPHO/James Crombie

RORY BEST IS the first to admit that his throwing radar suffered from a costly blip, or two, last season. The Ulster hooker found his set-piece targeted throughout last year’s Six Nations and his game suffered as a consequence.

Best went from a certainty to tour with the British and Irish Lions to a late call-up after Dylan Hartley was banned for abusive language. The low point of the hooker’s performance trough was the 12-10 defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield. Jim Hamilton was a menace throughout as Ireland lost four lineouts on their own throw.

The 6′ 8″ lock was named in Scotland’s team on Wednesday but Best has rediscovered his throwing touch. He also has an old reliable to look for in the Irish line. “They did fairly well against us last year in Murrayfield,” said Best. “Hamilton is a good lineout operator, but we have Paulie [O'Connell] there now who is a brilliant lineout operator.

“We need to make sure when they are moving around and getting up we are accurate. That is throw, lift, catch. Everything needs to be right and on the money. Scotland are a team that are going to test in the lineout. It’s called a Test match for a reason. It is to test yourself against the best and Scotland are up there.”

imageHamilton picked off three Irish lineouts in Murrayfield. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

The remainder of the Scottish XV is much as Best expected, with their coach Scott Johnson naming a strong front five and an abrasive back row. “It is going to be very much a case of rolling up the sleeves and preparing for battle on Sunday,” he remarked.

“If you look at their back three they have two British Lions [Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland] in there. They play some really nice rugby. They are very dangerous on the fringes and certainly from my point of view you are looking at that pack and the breakdown is massive. We talked about their back row but also with Hamilton and some of their front row, they are very very dangerous over the ball if you let them get in and it is going to be very tough to slow their ball down.

“They are big men, they carry hard and they are physical around there. It is a great challenge. It is what you want, to play in a big physical game against a big physical pack.”

The New Zealand match, which Ireland lost in stoppage time, was “parked” at the team’s Christmas get-together. The main message, he feels [and to quote a song], is to eliminate the negatives of that game and accentuate the positives. “We feel if we can do that, with the quality of players we have, we are a dangerous outfit,” Best added.

One video clip that Best may not have enjoyed watching was the arm fracture he incurred while trying to repel an All Black wave. With Ireland on the defensive, the 31-year-old remained on the pitch until there was a break in play. While he was waiting on that break, Best threw himself into a defensive ruck. It was an astonishing demonstration of bloody-minded commitment to the cause.

“It was pretty sore,” he revealed. “The arm, after the operation, it was one of the sorest operations I had. Just for a week I laid fairly low. Emotionally it was a tough one. You had come so close [to winning] and I suppose the support we got — not just in the stadium that day — [was great].

“It was the best atmosphere I had experienced arguably anywhere but certainly at home in an Irish jersey. Everyone was telling you, you had done really well but as a group of players, doing really well isn’t good enough for us. We expect to win these games. From that point of view it was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. We got so much support off the pitch but ultimately we felt it was a massive opportunity gone by on the pitch.”

imageBest is helped from the field by the Irish medics. INPHO/Ryan Byrne

When medics told Best he would be back between six to eight weeks he focused on the optimistic diagnosis. Six weeks it was. He pushed himself hard over December and was ready to go, if not a little nervous, for the home Heineken Cup win over Montpellier.  He said:

I was going into tackles not knowing what would happen. The tackle that broke my arm didn’t feel that bad until I heard a bit of a snap. I wasn’t holding back but I certainly wasn’t putting everything into it. That was the good thing of having two games [with Ulster]. By the time I got through the Leicester game I didn’t think about it once. It was a very physical game, not dissimilar to Sundays. It was nice to come through these challenges.”

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Patrick McCarry

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