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'It's nice for my mum and dad and my young family to be here and hear that'

An emotional Rory Best was given a rousing reception as he played his final game at the Aviva Stadium.

Best with his son Ben and daughter Penny after the game.
Best with his son Ben and daughter Penny after the game.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IN THIS SEASON of goodbyes, there have been a number of farewells for Rory Best along the way. And not all of them have been on his terms. Think of the disappointment of being forced off not long into Ulster’s European defeat to Leinster here back in March, or his final game in the white jersey being soured by a hammering at the hands of Glasgow.

But today ended — fittingly and emotionally — on his terms. It was, in many ways, a final Aviva Stadium performance that belied his 37 years, as every single person inside the ground rose to their feet on 52 minutes.

Best, having recovered from two early lineout blemishes, responded with character and with tenacity to lead from the front as Ireland ensured this was an occasion to remember for the skipper and head coach Joe Schmidt.

The Aviva stood as one as the Ulster hooker made way for Sean Cronin and then again at full-time when Best was joined on the pitch by his children — Ben, Richie and Penny — and wife, Jodie. 

14 years after making his debut at Lansdowne Road, an emotional Best said: “This place has been unbelievably special for me over many, many years. The support we got today summed up the support we’ve got throughout my career.

“I can still remember coming off the bench and coming down into the corner here into a scrum alongside my brother [Simon]. Those are the things you remember, the little bits and pieces, the trips to the stadium on the bus, the moments after the games when you look around the stadium and everyone’s wrecked, when you’ve given your all for this jersey.

“These moments are made special by your team by your family and by so many people.”

With his team-mates gathered with their own families on the pitch, and the majority of the crowd still in their seats long after the final whistle, Best was given a guard of honour by the teams.

joe-schmidt-and-rory-best-after-the-game Best and Schmidt embrace at full-time. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Afterwards, in the post-match press conference, Best was able to reflect further.

“It is obviously incredibly special,” he continued. “This place has given me some wonderful memories, some ones that you have had to use to try and be better and to get that reception from the supporters here it’s nice for my mum and dad, my young family and my wife to be in there and to hear that.

“It’s nice to see that over a fairly long period of time you have done more things right than not and to get that appreciation is lovely. Ultimately it was about making sure that we were able to build on last week. It’s nice to get the standing ovation and the applause but the performance and the result was far from important than that.”

It was not all about Best here, and he made sure of that, ensuring that he paid tribute to the man sitting to his left. 

“It would be very remiss of me not to mention a coach that came into Ireland a good few years ago with Leinster. With Ireland, he has transformed the international game here,” he added.

I have been very privileged to work with him both as a player and a captain, I can’t be grateful enough for everything that Joe Schmidt has done for me as a player, the team and the country.

In thanking his players and management staff, the Ireland head coach became visibly emotional afterwards.

“For me, it’s been good to take the emotion out of it, as emotionally connected as I am to the team and the performance to the Aviva Stadium and what it’s meant over the last 10 years,” Schmidt said.

“I was here at the first game of rugby with my kids watching an U20s game with the four provinces mixed into two teams.

“So I was here for the first game of rugby and ever since then I’ve had some really special experiences just absorbing the atmosphere. It’s phenomenal for such an open stadium, the volume of noise that gets created.

“And we are incredibly lucky with the support that we have and that was very evident with the reception that Rory got coming off today.”

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey  / Reports from the Aviva Stadium

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