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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019
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Farrell backs Ireland captain Best as a contender for Lions leadership

The 34-year-old has guided Ireland to wins over South Africa and New Zealand this year.

IRELAND ASSISTANT COACH Andy Farrell has backed Rory Best as a contender to captain the Lions to New Zealand next year.

34-year-old Best took over as Ireland captain before this year’s Six Nations, succeeding Paul O’Connell.

Rory Best Best will win his 100th Ireland cap today. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

After a difficult tournament in which Ireland won two of their five games, Best led Ireland to their first-ever win over the Springboks on South African soil in June, while he also captained Joe Schmidt’s side to a maiden victory over the All Blacks this month.

“There’s no doubt that he’s a contender when he’s doing as good a job as he is for his national team and his national team is doing pretty well,” said Farrell yesterday.

“He’s a big part of that so he has to be right up there, doesn’t he?”

Farrell previously worked with England and is a former rugby union and league international himself. Asked to expand on why he feels Best is a contender for the Lions captaincy, the Englishman pointed to the hooker’s balanced leadership style.

It’s just what he’s been through. As a player, the ups and downs of international rugby and when you’ve got 100 caps you’ve certainly been through a hell of a lot. Your experience of how you deal not just with your own game and the players around you for the feel of the game in the white-hot heat of the moment is priceless.

“That’s what I’ve been super impressed with, not only is he laying his body on the line but his decision-making and his calmness under pressure in the big games that we’ve been in, certainly since I’ve been here in the last six months, has been fantastic to watch.

“That’s proper leadership, that’s what that is, so anyone who has that skill or that trait has to be up there.”

Best will win his 100th Ireland cap today against the Wallabies at the Aviva Stadium [KO 5.30pm], joining a club that also includes Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Paul O’Connell and John Hayes.

Rory Best Best has grown into the Ireland captaincy. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The tributes to the Ulsterman have come thick and fast all week from the Ireland camp, and Best himself said there is no greater honour than captaining his country on this special occasion.

“I sorta grew up in very much a rugby playing family,” said Best. “We came down to the old fashioned Lansdowne Road as family to watch, we went up to the Ulster games as a family to watch.

I think to go from that to being immersed in it so much, to then get the opportunity to put on the green jersey once was unbelievably special.

“To do it alongside Simon [his brother] at the time, with all the family here and to have done it so many times since, like every time there is a slightly different feeling as you pull it on.

“I suppose as you go through your career you get more grateful for every time you get to pull it on. But I just have a massive amount of pride every time I put on that jersey and to be asked last year to captain Ireland regularly is, look, for me there is no greater honour.”

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Best making no fuss as he joins BOD, POC, ROG and Hayes in 100-cap club

Lansdowne can go top and the rest of the weekend’s Ulster Bank League action

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Murray Kinsella

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