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Dublin: 9°C Thursday 22 October 2020
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Indecisive Best set for Ulster talks to 'see where everyone's head is at'

The Ireland captain will sit down with Dan McFarland and Bryn Cunningham to finalise his future in the next two weeks.

RORY BEST’S MIND changes from hour-to-hour, let alone on a daily basis. He remains agonisingly undecided over whether he should play on into next season, or just call it quits after the World Cup. But he can now no longer put it off. A decision has to be made.

The Ireland captain will sit down with Ulster head coach Dan McFarland and operations director Bryn Cunningham over the next two weeks to ultimately finalise whether Best will retire from professional rugby post-Japan.

Rory Best Best has to make a decision on his future in the coming weeks. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

There is a lot to consider, a lot of emotion clouding his thought process. On one hand, the 36-year-old is as keen as ever to re-commit for another season, determined to help end the province’s silverware drought, but then there are moments of uncertainty and doubt when he questions why he would put himself through it all again. Maybe it’s time to just return to a normal, everyday life. Maybe. 

“It just depends what time of the day you ask me to be honest,” Best laughs.

The hooker has already confirmed his intention to retire from international rugby after September’s global tournament, marking the end of a 14-year, 117-cap Ireland career. 

It’s important for Best to leave on his terms and the initial discussion with McFarland and Cunningham will revolve around whether Ulster can afford to keep him on their wage bill, given Best will now fall off an IRFU central contract.

“I know that they’re relaxed because I don’t think it’s going to affect their signing policy,” he continues.

“I think they’re very happy with the three hookers they have, and me. It’s not like they’re going to go out and replace me with a foreign player. So from that side of things, they didn’t put any pressure on me. It was always my intention to get back after the Six Nations, get settled in. The European game [v Leinster] was such a big game for us, I didn’t want any distractions.

“It was always this week or next was my intention to have a conversation with Bryn and Dan to see where everyone’s heads at and how they’re feeling, whether they can afford me, whether I can keep playing, whether they want me to keep playing, there’s all of that.

“We’ll make a decision together. It’s difficult because there are days that go by where you’re leading into that game and even the morning of the game and the pre-match meal and you’re wondering ‘why am I doing this?’

The nerves and everything around it, there must be an easier way of doing things. And then you get into the warm up and the atmosphere and the bus trip and they’re the moments where you go ‘this is why I do this, I want to keep doing this’.

“You just go through all these waves. When I heard that Jack McGrath was confirmed, that’s another one that makes you want to play, you want to play beside class players and Jack’s one of those.”

Whatever direction those discussions go, Best will also need to sit down with his family to consider his next step, while the ankle injury he suffered at the weekend has given him a bit of breathing space in terms of coming to the final decision he’s happy with.

There were fears on Saturday evening as Best sat on the bench at the Aviva Stadium with a boot on his left ankle that he may have played his last game for Ulster, but again the Craigavon native is hopeful of getting back to play for his province before the end of the season.

“You never quite know if you’re going to play in another competitive game, at that stage I didn’t know if I’d play another game for Ulster this season,” he says. “It was such a good game to be involved in. Even the first six or eight minutes until I got the injury, I felt like I was in the game and I was really enjoying [it].

Rory Best Best was in Dublin yesterday to launch the Specsavers Audiologists campaign. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Ultimately, you just don’t know, at the Aviva, if you’re going to play another competitive game at a sold-out Aviva Stadium. Obviously, the Six Nations is gone. They’re friendlies in the summer. All these emotions just go through you. I don’t know if I’m going to play on with Ulster next season. I was kind of there, ‘is this my last ever European game with Ulster?’

“Just all of these things go through your head. But ultimately, you’re disappointed because you want to play. Those are the games, with all respect to some of the other teams, some of the away games to Wales or Italy aren’t exactly the glamour ties. That is the game that the players, they don’t really want to play in but they want to perform in. That was ultimately the overriding emotion for me.”

Best added: “You always play over the worst case scenario in your head. If I finish after the World Cup and don’t play a game for Ulster, is this how you’re going to be remembered? As someone who limped off after 16 minutes in quarter-final? They’re the doomsday scenarios that rattle through your head. It does upset you.

“I’m not that emotional a person, but I remember leaving the hotel room in the Shelbourne to go to the France game, and sort of to think there ‘this is the last time I’m going to leave the hotel room to go to a Six Nations game at the Aviva.’

“They’re the little things that you sometimes get a lump in the throat and it’s the same on Saturday. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m not convinced what my future is going to be with Ulster. And when you add in the emotion of the occasion, the adrenalin going through your body, you do funny things when all of that is on you.” 

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Ryan Bailey

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