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Dublin: 11°C Tuesday 19 January 2021

Best's new contract close to finalised ahead of Six Nations campaign

The 35-year-old Ireland captain is close to finalising a contract extension.

RORY BEST SAYS he is hopeful that there will be news on his contract in the “very near future,” with the Six Nations now just 10 days away.

Best’s IRFU contract is set to expire at the end of the current season, but it is expected that the Ireland captain will have his deal with the union extended through until the conclusion of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Rory Best Best was at the Six Nations launch in London yesterday. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Th 35-year-old had injury issues earlier this season but is now fully fit again and was pleased to come through three consecutive games for Ulster in recent weeks.

“I feel pretty good at the minute, getting those three games in a row has been important for me to show myself that I’m still capable and still enjoy playing at that level,” said Best.

“Look, that [his contract] has all been good and hopefully we’ll get something sorted out in the very near future.”

Given Best’s ongoing importance as Ireland’s leader and clear first-choice hooker, an announcement would be welcome news for Joe Schmidt and the rest of Irish rugby.

Though Best has shown strong form on an individual level in recent weeks, he and his Ulster team-mates have suffered deep disappointment with their failure to advance into the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup after defeat away to Wasps.

That loss meant Best, Rob Herring, Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale arrived into Ireland camp on Sunday having left their province on a negative note.

In contrast, the Leinster, Munster and Connacht contingents all came in on the back of securing European quarter-finals, and Best is keen for Ireland to carry some of that momentum into the Six Nations.

“I think when you look at it and you go, ‘three teams with home quarter-finals and going into the last round Ulster had a chance to win a game to get a quarter-final and get a bonus point to get a home quarter-final’ – it would have been unprecedented.

Ireland’s Rory Best Best remains in fine form at the age of 35. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“In that top level of clubs, I think the Irish provinces are doing really, really strongly. The important thing for us is that we take that bit of form from Europe and that bit of momentum you get from winning games.

“But, ultimately, you park all the provincial stuff and you get together as a national side.

“That’s the important thing – that sort of momentum created by home quarter-finals and putting yourself in position for that is only useful if we can channel it in the direction of the national team.”

First up for Ireland is a trip to Paris to face France, who have a new coach in Jacques Brunel and a number of fresh faces in their playing group too.

While les Bleus have been deeply disappointing in Test rugby for some time now, Best is wary of their home advantage on 3 February.

“Going to the Stade de France, it’s a really tough place to go and play and Irish teams, we haven’t had a lot of success historically there,” said Best.

“It’s a great place to play in terms of atmosphere and stadium, but it’s also a very nice place for them to play. So that added to all the talent they have makes it a very, very tough prospect for us.”

- This article was updated at 8.01am to correct ‘Ulster’ to ‘Connacht’ in the ninth paragraph and ’23 February’ to ’3 February’ in the 15th paragraph.

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