'You are looking at it going 'This is an incredible opportunity.'' - Rory Best admits to being tempted by Bristol offer
Rory Best has admitted that he came very close to joining Bristol in recent weeks, despite having already announced his retirement.
The former Ireland captain was sounded out by Pat Lam as a potential signing and while brief discussions took place, Best decided to stand by his decision to hang up his boots.
Although the 37-year old played for the Barbarians in recent weeks, he bowed out of the international stage after Ireland's World Cup quarter-final defeat to New Zealand.
After Bristol, who are currently second in the Premiership table, came in with an offer, Best revealed that further clubs attempted to sway him into playing for one more season.
"There was nothing really and then Bristol came in and it was almost like a bit of a snowball effect," Best said in Dublin today.
"There were a couple of other options after that. I think if I was ever going to go anywhere, Bristol would probably have been the one.
"It was actually quite nice – you think you are done and then you get this option and you sort of go 'Maybe I am not completely done after-all.'
"The thought of someone wanting you is quite a nice feeling whenever you are retired or about to retire.
"You look at Bristol, Pat Lam is someone who I admired as a player. I sort of used to be a Newcastle Falcons supporter, watching him there and then what he did at Connacht and what he is doing at Bristol.
"It's sort of something that you looked and went 'If you ever wanted to get into coaching to learn and to go from Joe (Schmidt) to him would be incredible.'
"Obviously with John Afoa, Charles Piutau, Kevin Geary (head of strength and conditioning), the physio is from Ulster as well Rory Murray, John Muldoon. There are so many people.
"For a bit, you are kind of looking at it going 'This is an incredible opportunity.'
"I think in the end, I looked at it and went: The family are ready to have me home. When you tell the young kids something, that's it. It's hard to change. They are kind of going 'We want to be at home.'
"Ultimately, Iwanted to be at home and that was really the long and short of it. As flattered as I was, and as I said, if ever there was a club you would consider going to at the minute, with what they (Bristol) are doing, that's the team.”
Best also revealed that he had several offers from French clubs during his 15-year Ulster career, and although he pondered a move abroad, it never materialised as playing for his home province and Ireland was too important.
"There were a couple of times, yeah – there were a couple of French offer," Best recalled.
"The problem with France is you never really sure if they actually want you. And with Irish players too, they are always a wee bit cautious because there have been a few examples in the past where they go to a Toulouse or a Clermont or Toulon, get a figure and go back to the IRFU and say 'Well, this is what I can get – you need to match that.' And wasting everyone's time.
"But I suppose the first one was Biarritz in and around the time they lost to Munster in '06. When they were European Cup contenders, there was potentially an option there.
"There was another one in Toulouse a couple of years later and then Clermont around 2011 was an option as well.
"It never really went very far because it was always 'Right, let's talk to the IRFU. If we are not happy with what they offer, then it might force my hand.'
"But the IRFU have always been good. I think I was measured enough to know that first of all, I want to play for Ulster and secondly I want to play for Ireland.
"They are the two teams I have only ever wanted to play for. I know you get a lot better managed and looked after (in Ireland).
"Ultimately, the IRFU do pay (well). Especially if you can factor in bonuses with Ireland, the IRFU pay – certainly back in those days as well as anyone."
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