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'We need to get away from the days of signing bit-part players from other teams'

Rory Best has described the acquisition of Jack McGrath as a statement signing from Ulster.

Best: 'Jack is a quality player and it's exciting for Ulster.'
Best: 'Jack is a quality player and it's exciting for Ulster.'
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Updated Apr 4th 2019, 9:33 PM

RORY BEST SAYS Ulster’s acquisition of Jack McGrath from Leinster is a statement signing for the province, as they bid to strengthen their resources and continue on an upward trajectory under Dan McFarland.

The IRFU this week confirmed McGrath’s move north after the loosehead prop initiated discussions over a potential switch having becoming frustrated by a lack of starting opportunities at both club and international level in recent times.

McGrath follows Jordi Murphy in making the move to Belfast from his native province and the 29-year-old will hope consistent game-time in the number one jersey will help him challenge Cian Healy at international level.

Following the arrival of Murphy and Marty Moore last summer, and the signing of Wallaby lock Sam Carter for next season, Ulster have made strong moves in the market as their revival under McFarland gathers momentum. 

Speaking on The42 Rugby Weekly, Ireland captain Best says it’s important Ulster continue to acquire the right calibre of player moving forward, rather than be content in adding ‘bit-part’ players to their squad.

“Over the last 12 months now, we have brough in British Lions and Irish internationals,” the hooker said. “Bringing in Jordi and Marty and now Jack McGrath, and I think we need to get away from the days where we kind of signed bit-part players from other teams and hoped they were good.

“Now to be saying we’re signing internationals is a great statement. We need to make sure we keep pressure on our structures and systems, that we can bring through plenty of Ulster-born players, but ultimately these are guys that are going to add something to the shirt, and they’re going to add something to the environment.

“The likes of the Eric O’Sullivans coming through, in Jack McGrath’s case, he can learn off him. These guys can learn off one of the best looseheads.”

On the signing of McGrath, Best added: “He’s a quality player. I’ve really enjoyed playing with him, not so much in a Leinster shirt. But playing with him for Ireland and seeing the way he progressed from a bit of a squad player to being a starting Irish international and the battle between him and Cian Healy has really come down to whoever got injured has fallen out and then the other one has had to wait their turn.

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

“That’s the sort of quality player you want but also as a person, he’s a top bloke. Really good guy around the place and you want people who are likeable as ultimately when you get into a battle, you need to trust people around you.

“And Jack has all of that and it’s really exciting for Ulster Rugby.”

Reflecting on last weekend’s quarter-final defeat to Leinster at the Aviva Stadium, Best believes it was the type of performance that the players and supporters alike can take heart from, as Ulster look to push on and compete for silverware again.

“That was probably one of the big things we wanted to achieve from this season, obviously we want success, but we wanted everyone who doubted us last year, that doubted our commitment and ability. We didn’t want to prove them wrong but we wanted to bring them back in and show them, this is actually what Ulster Rugby is about, this is what we leave on the pitch and this is what traditionally Ulster have been about.

“That’s what we want to get back to and we want to re-engage with the community, with the fans and want to give them something they can be proud of. I think Saturday was obviously a massive step towards that.” 

First published today at 18.38

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