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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 19 February, 2019
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Best prepared to remain patient on the comeback trail as World Cup looms large

The Ireland captain will sit out the first few weeks of the new season as he works his way back to full fitness.

ON ONE HAND missing Ireland’s tour of Australia was a blessing in disguise at the end of difficult season injury-wise for Rory Best, but the Ireland captain is also aware that his summer of rehabilitation opened the door for others to stake their claim for the number two jersey.

Rory Best Best will miss the first few games of Ulster's season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Best was a late withdrawal from Joe Schmidt’s touring party in order to rest a hamstring problem which had flared up after the Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign, allowing Niall Scannell and Ulster team-mate Rob Herring the chance to put their case forward Down Under.

Both hookers performed well when given the opportunity during the three-Test series and certainly would have enhanced their credentials for a starting berth moving into the November window.

Best, watching from his living room, admitted yesterday it was hard not to be involved, particularly when Ireland’s golden season was rubber-stamped with a historic Test series win over the Wallabies.

“You are part of a team and you feel far away and you don’t add anything and it’s frustrating watching, especially when they add to Irish history. But it was great to see them doing so well,” he said at the Pro14 launch in Glashow.

“There’s always stuff reported about your place, and my place in particular. I’ve been worried about my place for 14 years. Anyone who gets comfortable with the idea they are an automatic selection isn’t someone you want at the top level anyway, because they’re not ambitious.

“If you sat down with players, and heard 100%  how they felt, our better players are the ones who are most concerned about their place on Joe’s team.”

After an extended break and a longer pre-season with the northern province than usual, Best believes the time off will be of real benefit going forward.

“Rather than finishing a season battered and bruised and hanging on by a thread physically, I got to finish a season in good shape,” the 36-year-old continued.

“It was very different for me to do rehab and a bit of conditioning with no pressure to come back for a game. It was something I had never really done before but mentally it was very refreshing.”

The hamstring, he adds, is feeling good but with a World Cup coming into sharp focus, is wary of rushing back too soon and doing further damage.

Rory Best The Ireland captain at yesterday's Pro14 launch in Glasgow. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Instead, Best is taking a longer-term view and will miss the first few games of Ulster’s season in order to complete his rehab work and return in the best possible shape.

“It feels pretty good but everyone keeps telling me don’t push it too hard too early because you can look after it by missing a couple of games now,” he said.

“It’s hard to take because all you want to do is play but you have to take a long-term view and be patient.

“Ulster have been brilliant in my career. They know everyone wants to play for Ireland, it’s a massive ambition and honour. They are very happy — or make you think that they are very happy anyway — that you have to miss some games through resting.

“Guys that are further up the food chain than me will have mapped out games, rest periods, regeneration periods and it will all be geared towards the World Cup.

“Everyone knows what’s coming in September next year but if we start to look beyond getting ready to play in the first block of games this season then your form suffers.

“And if your form suffers all you will have to worry about is where you are going to watch the World Cup because there are so many good players around Ireland that someone will replace you.”

“I do feel pretty good now and because it’s a bit of a long-term picture to consider, I’m not overly worried.”

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Ryan Bailey

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