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Rory proved to be the best fit for role of rugby captaincy


Rory Best autobiography

Rory Best autobiography

Rory Best autobiography

Rory Best is widely regarded as one of Ireland's greatest-ever rugby captains.

Entrusted by Joe Schmidt to lead the side that looked on the wane following the 2015 World Cup, Best's inspirational leadership skills and abrasive qualities proved to be the foundation stones for the most successful period in Ireland's history.

Schmidt sums it up in the foreword of the book when he says that the former Ireland captain exemplifies the qualities of those who don't achieve easily but through effort.

Reflecting on a career that saw him earn 124 Ireland caps, captain his country to a Grand Slam, tour with the Lions twice, and play for his native Ulster 218 times, it's that sense that he squeezed every drop out of his potential that gives Best most pride.

Throughout 'Rory Best: My Autobiography', we get a sense of the now retired Best's insecurities and self doubts. He calls himself a rather shy, fat lad from Poyntzpass early on.

As detailed in his book, Best had some off-the-pitch bumps early in his career with Ulster, particularly when it came to his fondness for a wild night on the booze.

There was one stage where he admits he worried that Ulster 'were going to get rid of me', but Best quit the drink entirely for a season as he realised he simply didn't have the talent not to be more dedicated.

With Schmidt as his head coach, Best captained Ireland to a first Test win on South African soil, their first-ever win over New Zealand, a Grand Slam, as well as their second win over New Zealand, this time back in Dublin.

Best recalls that it was Paul O'Connell's retirement after the 2015 World Cup that left Schmidt looking for a captain.

'Joe asked us to look around the room to think what we wanted to be, how we wanted to behave, and what we saw as being vital to the team.

'The captaincy wasn't on my radar because I assumed Jamie Heaslip was going to be appointed. Then one evening in early January, 2016, my phone rang at around 7 p.m. just as Jodie and I were finishing up dinner and starting to put the kids to bed.

'I'm sorry to be ringing you so late,' Joe said. 'But to be honest this is the nicest of the three phone calls I have had to make today. Look, you came out on top in the vote, and also I would like you to be captain as well. That is, if you would like to do it? Of course I said, I would like to do it.'

He recalls social media messages directed at him questioning why 'a fat Protestant' was captaining Ireland, while revealing how 'it grated when a tiny minority seemed to view Ulster players as "Plastic Paddies" who lacked the passion or commitment.

Best leaves his playing career behind with few regrets, but one that stands out is not winning a Lions Test cap on his two tours in 2013 and 2017.

He sums up the 2019 World Cup debacle with 'sometimes there isn't a reason'. His career officially ended after playing with the Barbarians last November, although he was very nearly tempted to play on for a few more months when Pat Lam's Bristol offered him a contract.

He described it as an enticing offer but ultimately it was Best's eldest son, Ben, who made his decision to turn the Premiership club down.

'Ben said he was ready to have Dad at home. I put myself first for 15-odd years.' And so it is Best is now into life post-rugby, admitting he's physically happy to be out of it.


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