Saturday 18 November 2017

Rowntree: Rory Best is one of the Lions' leaders

Rory Best poses for a picture during the press conference at the Convention Centre, Perth in Australia.
Rory Best poses for a picture during the press conference at the Convention Centre, Perth in Australia.

Conor George in Perth

RORY BEST’S professionalism and leadership capabilities were generously praised by Lions forwards’ coach Graham Rowntree in Perth.

The Ulster and Ireland hooker was a late addition to the touring party after Dylan Hartley’s suspension but, according to Rowntree, he has adapted quickly to the change in circumstances and has already caught up with the rest of the squad.

“Rory is a great professional and very diligent about what he has to do,” said Rowntree.

“He came into the squad relatively late but he set about what learning the calls and the plays immediately and has been a great addition to the squad.

“He was very close to being selected in the initial squad. The hooker and back-row positions were the most difficult positions to select and it was tough leaving a player of Rory’s ability out in the first place.”

Best was on his way back to Belfast on the Sunday morning after the RaboPro12 final against Leinster when he received the call alerting him to his changing circumstances. He had been scheduled to travel with Ireland but instead had to quickly make his way to London.

And now that he’s in Australia and about to make his Lions debut the challenge is to force his way into the Test team.

“Rory’s a player I’ve been impressed with for a number of seasons. He’s a quality front row forward and has huge experience.

“He is a leader and you can never have enough leaders when it comes to tours like this. He’s a great addition.

“The chance is there for him to stake his claim against Western Force, just like it is with everyone playing. With respect to the opposition these games are about our players putting their hands up and showing what they can do,” Rowntree added.

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