Best hopeful of full recovery
Published 14/01/2014 | 18:17
Rory Best took one look at the X-ray and feared his goal of finding fitness for the RBS 6 Nations might be just out of reach.
Surgery to repair his broken forearm had gone well, specialists said, offering a copy of the scan as souvenir.
The Ulsterman half expected a horde of sniggering team-mates to spill around the corner, owning up to defacing that scan as a practical joke.
The metal plates and pins to fix his fractured radial bone could almost have been added to that X-ray with a marker pen.
This was no laughing matter, and Best knew he faced a grind to beat the injury that laid him low in Ireland's titanic 24-22 November loss to New Zealand.
Just seven weeks after surgery though, Best made a prompt return for Ulster's 27-16 victory over Montpellier on Friday night.
Named in Joe Schmidt's 44-man RBS 6 Nations squad on Tuesday, Best admitted he must still prove his recovery is complete.
"All that will stay in," Best told Press Association Sport of the metal additions to his forearm. "Most of the boys that have broken their arm have plates in there.
"A couple have them in their face and their leg, that's just part of the job these days.
"I'm not sure what the rust protection is like to be fair, but hopefully it'll be all right.
"Fingers crossed it won't set off any metal detectors at airports!
"During the game on Friday it was fine, that was probably as nervous as I've been in an Ulster game for a while.
"But as the game went on I felt more and more comfortable, taking the hits and getting stuck in and that side of things.
"So I was very happy, it felt fine over the weekend and I was always pencilled in just for another X-ray on Monday just to make sure everything was where it should be and that nothing has slipped or moved, and that went well too."
Ireland boss Schmidt has named seven uncapped players in his extended Six Nations squad, also catering for the second string Ireland Wolfhounds' clash with England Saxons at Gloucester's Kingsholm stadium on Saturday, January 25.
Robin Copeland leads that group, the Cardiff Blues back-five forward primed for his summer move to Munster.
Connacht's former New Zealand Under-19s prop Rodney Ah You has also made Schmidt's squad, after qualifying on residency terms.
Schmidt did not select seven frontline stars still recovering from injury, but reserved the right to call them up if they find fitness during the tournament.
Richardt Strauss, Donnacha Ryan, Roger Wilson, Tommy Bowe, Simon Zebo, Declan Fitzpatrick and Craig Gilroy all still have a chance of Six Nations action then.
Sean O'Brien, Stephen Ferris, Mike Sherry and Stuart Olding have all been effectively ruled out by not being included on that list.
Best claimed Ireland's second of three tries in a stunning salvo that nearly toppled New Zealand in Dublin back in November.
The 70-cap hooker had to depart just four minutes later though, and even that after realising he had seriously damaged his arm and refusing to leave the field until there was a break in play.
"I knew when I got tackled that I'd done something pretty serious to it," said Best, playing down any disregard for personal well-being.
"I wasn't definitely sure it was broken, but I knew it was bad.
"When you're playing against the All Blacks it's hard enough to play against them with 15, but if you drop down to 14 it's next to impossible.
"We've all seen how good they are when they get at teams.
"From my point of view, I knew it wasn't great, but it didn't stop me running.
"So I just had to get up and face up in the line, so it didn't look like we were numbers down.
"As much as anything it seemed the passage of play went on for a good while before I could receive medical treatment.
"But I suppose for me, it sounds a lot more heroic than it was.
"It was just about getting into position and trying to show as little weakness as possible.
"You just have to get on with it, that's all you can do.
"These things seem a far bigger deal than they are, and I certainly don't think anyone would want to be claiming credit for playing through pain or anything like that."
Relieved and excited to be fit, Best paid tribute to Ulster boss Mark Anscombe for pitching him straight into a fierce Heineken Cup fortnight, with last week's Montpellier clash giving way to Saturday's Leicester trip.
"It's a fantastic opportunity to come back against two really tough teams, to prove your match fitness," said Best.
"It's two of the best teams in Europe, so if I can get through those, I played 70 minutes at the weekend and if I can something similar this weekend, then you go into the Six Nations and actually trying to build some form from those two games.
"But also you go in off the back of those real physical challenges in Europe, so your body's actually fairly well prepared hopefully."