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'Preparations were perfect, everything else was a bit of a disaster' - Best on RWC '07

The former Ireland flanker played his final match in the pool stage elimination by Argentina.

Neil Best and Denis Hickie leave the pitch after the Georgia game.
Neil Best and Denis Hickie leave the pitch after the Georgia game.
Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

IN NOVEMBER 2006, Ireland defeated South Africa 32-15 at Lansdowne Park. A week later, at the same venue, Australia were sent packing.

Neil Best was, deservedly, named as man of the match in the 21-6 triumph over the Wallabies.

However at the end of 10 eventful months, Best was on the losing end of a World Cup match against Argentina. It would prove his last game for Ireland.

Best told TheScore.ie, “The Australia game at Lansdowne was the highlight for me. It was the best game I played for Ireland.

“I was more of a bit-part player for Ireland but I was given a run after the summer tour [to Australia and New Zealand].”

Irelan won the Triple Crown for the second year running in the 2007 Six Nations and were only denied a Grand Slam by a last-minute Vincent Clerc try at Croke Park.

The World Cup, hosted by the French later that year, was supposed to be the tournament where Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll, David Wallace and Paul O’Connell would show their class.

Eddie O’Sullivan’s side were eliminated after the pool stages following defeats to France, Argentina and narrowly avoiding a shock against Georgia.

O’Sullivan and Ireland receive a low-key welcome at Dublin Airport. (©INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

Best commented, “We were doing well and went into 2007 and the World Cup with belief.

“The preparations, you could say, were perfect but everything else was a bit of a disaster.”

Declan Kidney took over the Ireland job from O’Sullivan in 2008 and Best, apart from an Ireland A game against Tonga, did not feature in green again.

The former Ulster player switched rugby allegiances to Northampton Saints for two seasons before moving on to Worcester Warriors.

He concedes that he was not overly concerned with Ireland’s November Series last month but did cast his eye over one of the matches.

“It was good to see Argentina get thumped at the Aviva,” he remarked.

He has also noticed drastic changes at Ulster and is pleased to see his former team doing so well in the Pro12 and Heineken Cup.

Best said, “I look at the Ulster team now and don’t recognise most of the lads playing.

“The are scouting good players up at Ulster and it is good to see Ireland promoting them even though they haven’t got too many provincial caps.”

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Patrick McCarry

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