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Emotional day for Best as 100-cap captain claims another big scalp

The 34-year-old was proud of Ireland’s performance on a special day for him.

THE ALL BLACKS, the Springboks and the Wallabies. All accounted for in 2016.

Rory Best had an emotional day on his 100th cap, as he captained Ireland to the third of their Southern Hemisphere scalps this year.

Rory Best celebrates with his family after the game Best and his family after Ireland's 27-24 win. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It’s a remarkable achievement for Ireland and Best, whose leadership began in truly testing fashion as Ireland underperformed in last season’s Six Nations.

The Ulsterman has been superb as captain ever since, however, and Ireland assistant coach Andy Farrell went as far as to say Best is now a contender to lead the Lions to New Zealand next summer.

Best’s leadership was exemplary against the Wallabies, as he dealt superbly with referee Jérôme Garcès and kept Ireland on the right side of a 13-3 penalty count.

“You’re a good ref,” said Best to Garcès at one stage, as he argued that both Stephen Moore and David Pocock were getting in the Frenchman’s ear. “He’s not the captain,” said Best, in relation to Pocock.

The Ireland hooker received a deafening standing ovation as he left the pitch late on in the game, having joined Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell, Ronan O’Gara and John Hayes in the centurions’ club.

Best’ father was interviewed in the build-up to the game, showing some emotion at his son’s achievement, and the hooker himself felt a few twinges on the big occasion.

“First of all, I hope you got my Dad being emotional on camera, because it’d be the first I’ve seen it in some 34 years,” said Best with a smile post-match. “Look, I think the way the week has gone and the disappointment of last week, the way we’ve built into it.

Rory Best is congratulated by teammates after the game Best gets some treatment from his team-mates in the Aviva. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“We talk about a squad and to lose Johnny [Sexton] and Robbie [Henshaw], and then Sean [O'Brien] so late, you just hope the squad steps up. It’s something that, especially the last 12 months, we’ve worked really hard on.

“We had a tough old start to the Six Nations with so many injured, and the same in South Africa but you’re starting to see the rewards of it.

For me, it was obviously an emotional day. There’s such a great bunch of guys to captain and to be around. I suppose at this stage, it’s still really fun playing and training. The coaches make it so most of the time, other times they give us dog’s abuse!

“It’s a really good balance. For me, for 100 caps, it was very special. To have to make the changes that we did during the game.

“First of all you ask guys to fit in, and out of position, that’s hard. You just ask them to show a stomach for the fight and every man who stepped onto the pitch did that. That’s all you can ask. It wasn’t perfect but it was enough.”

Best said the reception he received after the game, as well as when he first came onto the pitch before the match with his two of his children, was very special.

“When I got the first cap, I never dreamed I would get 100. For me, personally, this week has shown why Irish rugby is such a special place to be around.

Rory Best celebrates with his wife Jodie and children from (L-R) Penny, Ben and Richie A proud day for the Best family. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The amount of support and well wishes has been really special. It shows why it’s so special to be in that green jersey.”

As for the achievement of beating the big three Southern Hemisphere teams in the same calendar year, Best expressed his delight. He says Ireland never bought into the idea that were was gulf in class between those teams and the Northern Hemisphere.

It’s obviously a pretty big achievement. To do it with so many players is a good sign for us and the depth that we’re building. After the World Cup, there was all this talk about the gap from the Northern Hemisphere to the South.

“The way England are performing, obviously Scotland won today. We didn’t feel there was a gap 12 months ago and that’s probably the biggest thing for us. We feel on our day we can compete with anybody.

“Since Joe came in, it’s been about consistency. We were disappointed last week so to turn around and get the result is very important. You have to show that level and we’ve now shown it against three top nations.”

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Murray Kinsella

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