RUGBY: Rory Best delighted to have another chance with British & Irish Lions

Rory Best talks to the players 
during the Lions Tour to Australia in 2013
Rory Best talks to the players during the Lions Tour to Australia in 2013
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Ireland and Ulster hooker Rory Best admitted his previous British & Irish Lions tour was not what he had expected the pinnacle of his rugby career to be.

But the 34-year-old plans to put that right after being named for the Lions summer tour to New Zealand.

Having initially been left devastated in missing selection, Best was then called up to the squad when England hooker Dylan Hartley was withdrawn after an 11-week suspension for swearing at a referee during the England Premiership Final.

Best started in two matches on the Tour, one of those in which he was captain and playing for a Test start - the Lions lost their only match of the Tour to the Brumbies 14-12.

“There is no secret how disappointed I was with how I performed four years ago,” Best told the News Letter yesterday.

“To even just go and experience it from the announcement right through wasn’t what I thought the pinnacle of my rugby career would be.

“I remember speaking at a dinner shortly after we returned and I just said it would be nice to get another chance.

“That was four years ago and when you are thinking I will be 34, nearly 35, I was thinking no chance.

“But, I have got that chance now and i suppose I was trying to tell myself that no matter what happens with selection that I am part of a squad.

“At the same time I felt I wanted a bit more than just being part of a squad, a late call up to a squad and all of that.

“I have put that one step in the right direction now, being named in the initial squad and it is up to all the individuals there now to do what they do with that.”

Best shared the announcement with his wife, Jodie and three children, Ben, Penny and Richie, streaming it live on an iPhone.

“Ben was delighted - as was everyone - but he then asked who would be on the next Lions squad.

“I said I had no idea, but one thing was certain his dad would not be,” laughed Best.

He may have turned 34 last August, but Best has been playing some of the best rugby of his career this season in both the white jersey of Ulster and as captain of Ireland.

With 104 caps he is Ireland’s most capped hooker and Ireland made history last season by beating New Zealand for the first time ever in 108 years of trying and also defeating South African and Australia in the same calendar year.

“Facing New Zealand is going to be tough. We beat them in one game, but a three-test series is a different beast,” said Best.

“You have got to be defensively very good, set piece has to be very good, and ultimately you have got to go and attack them.

“You know they will score points and you have to be prepared to limit that as much as you can through your set piece and defence.

“Ultimately you have got to be very good in attack and score points,” said Best.