Best determined to make most of luck
Ulster's Rory Best has predictably been granted licence to continue his remarkable comeback from a serious neck injury against the Dragons this evening as he prepares for next weekend's Six Nations Twickenham tussle.
Following Jerry Flannery's suspension, Best remains supreme among the understudies, but remains short on playing time -- however, the Banbridge man knows he's lucky to be playing rugby at all.
"When I had the surgery I realised that I had come close to never playing again, but then you start to take the positives from the situation," he said.
"I always hoped to return before the end of this season, but you always like to give yourself a little more time in case things don't go 100pc to plan.
"My goal was to perhaps be involved before the end of the Six Nations, so it is great to have been able to come on as a replacement in the opening two games against Italy and France.
"Jerry just mistimed his kick against France and I'm sure there was no malice in it, it was just unfortunate that it looked bad and he has been cited. You don't want to get into the team through the misfortune of others, but at the same time you have to accept a bit of luck and make the most of it when it comes along."
Best made his comeback in a club game for Banbridge -- "the boys probably think that the Stade De France was a step down in class!" -- and he acknowledges the debt owed to the Ulster medical staff.
"It was a slow process, but the break from playing allowed me to build up a bit of size and work on some things on my own that I would not normally have done in training.
"The whole recovery period was physically challenging, but also mentally challenging, and I have had to work hard to get my strength back.
"The Ulster fitness team have been phenomenal. They helped me to build up my fitness again gradually and made sure that the shoulder was capable of withstanding the necessary pressure before I played any games."
Predictably, Tom Court and Stephen Ferris miss out tonight, but Andrew Trimble and Paddy Wallace both start, as does Ian Humphreys at out-half.
Bryan Young comes in at loose-head and TJ Anderson will wear the No 6 jersey as Ulster seek Ravenhill vengeance for their early-season embarrassment against the Dragons.
Meanwhile winger Paul Sackey will join Jonny Wilkinson at Toulon next season after signing a two-year deal with the ambitious French club, who made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
Wasps director of rugby Tony Hanks revealed the Adams Park club could not compete financially with the money Toulon had put on the table. Toulon, coached by Philippe Saint-Andre, have raided the Premiership luring Wilkinson, Rory Lamont and Tom May to France.
Ulster -- J Smith; A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, S Danielli; I Humphreys, I Boss; B Young, R Best, BJ Botha, D Tuohy, E O'Donoghue, TJ Anderson, D Pollock, C Henry (capt). Replacements: N Brady, D Fitzpatrick, R Caldwell, R Diack, I Porter, I Whitten, T Nagusa.
Dragons -- M Thomas; W Harries, T Riley, R Gomer Davies, A Brew; J Tovey, W Evans; H Gustafson, S Jones, P Palmer, R Sidoli, L Charteris (capt), D Lydiate, G Thomas, G Webb. Replacements: T Willis, B Castle, A Jones, J Harris, M Watkins, J Arlidge, J Leadbeater.
Ref -- Peter Allan (SRU)
Ulster v Dragons,
Live, Setanta Ireland, 7.05