Saturday 16 February 2019

Best urges Ulster young guns to create their own European legacy

Ulster captain Rory Best. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Ulster captain Rory Best. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Jonathan Bradley

Ulster skipper Rory Best has urged his young side to create their own legacy as the province build into Saturday's Champions Cup pool finale with Leicester Tigers at Welford Road (3.15 kick-off).

Twenty years on from their most memorable triumph, Ulster's European heroes of 1999 were paraded onto the pitch ahead of last weekend's impressive win over Racing 92. But Best will not be looking to feed off that emotion as he leads his side out knowing that a win will secure a first return to the last eight of the Champions Cup since 2014.

"We were out doing our warm-up when they got introduced and it got loud," said Best. "But for too many years we've looked back and thought, 'We have to replicate that (team)'. We don't. We have to create our own legacy here. We've got to see how far we can push this group.

Actions "We talked about it in 2006 when we won something and in 2012 when we got to finals. It then became words and not actions.

"We thought it would just happen and that's the experience that we're going to have to get into this team, that we don't want to be sitting here in another 10 years introducing the 1999 team again because we haven't done anything since.

"The frightening thing is you don't want to walk around the changing room now and ask where you were when Ulster lifted the European Cup because there's boys in there who weren't born. I was on a bus from Portadown and I was of age to have a few drinks on the way down."

Best is more serious when weighing up the merits of such a youthful squad having Dan McFarland's men on the cusp of knockout rugby once again.

Given the huge swathes of experience lost at the end of last-season, and a daunting pool that pitched them against last season's beaten finalists and semi-finalists, few would have expected Ulster to be in such a position come round six.

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