Rory Best: Ireland captain keen to share accolades of Test success with his family once the time is right
Rory Best stacks up the latest snapshots on a life in Test rugby, and stores them safely in a box in his home office.
The Ireland captain, flanked by his young children on the Aviva Stadium pitch, toasting the nation’s first-ever home win over New Zealand.
The Ulsterman, proudly holding his OBE at Buckingham Palace. The evergreen hooker, saluting Ireland’s third Grand Slam in a snow-capped Twickenham.
Moments frozen in time on a stellar 2018. But stacked up and stored away those pictures and memories must be, if Best and Ireland are to make yet more history in World Cup year.
“In years to come as a family we’ll get to look back on the photos, we’ll talk about the New Zealand game, the first ever Irish team to beat New Zealand at home,” Best told Press Association Sport.
“My children will always be able to say they were on the pitch afterwards that day.
“They’ll be able to jog their memories through photos.
“There isn’t really time to sit down and talk about it all at length now, but people are very kind, sending us photos and the like.
“We’ve pictures of the children with the Six Nations trophies.
“Those pictures are stored in a box in my office. And when the time is right, we’ll take them out again.”
Ireland will be hard-pressed to improve upon their stunning 2018, that culminated with the superlative 16-9 win over the back-to-back world champion All Blacks in Dublin.
Joe Schmidt’s men completed the Six Nations clean sweep by downing England in London, in a tournament that started with Johnny Sexton’s monster match-winning drop-goal against France in Paris.
Best captained Ireland through the lot, then received his OBE from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace at the tail-end of November.
This is rarefied air for any Irishman, but will only grow thinner still as 2019 unfolds.
All that history, all those accolades cannot help Ireland in their quest to retain that Six Nations crown, nor touch uncharted World Cup territory in Japan in the autumn.
A maiden World Cup semi-final looms large as a target, but the neutrals keep gaining confidence that Ireland could swipe the Webb Ellis Cup itself.
While Best hopes to make full sense of his career highlights some way off in the future, the farmer from Banbridge remains delighted to be able to share the successes with his family.
“To be able to go to the palace and be able to bring my Mum and Dad, my wife Jodie and my children, was brilliant,” said Best.
“If I were just at home farming, I’d very surprised at 36 to be invited to the palace to receive an OBE.
“But my family have been too, and it’s always been important to me to be able to share those moments with them.
“Leading up to big games I wouldn’t speak to my family too much on a Thursday or a Friday, other than to make sure they are okay.
“Unless it’s something major my wife would perhaps not tell me until after the match.
“She doesn’t want me worrying about things, and that support is invaluable. Those are the sacrifices they make.”
Best boasts a higher win rate as Ireland captain than either Brian O’Driscoll or Paul O’Connell, but is quick to share the credit.
While the savvy hooker mediates well with referees, he also provides an open forum for peerless quarterback Johnny Sexton and warrior flanker Peter O’Mahony to colour Ireland’s approach.
“The characters we have, they have a lot of intellectual property, and I think it would be foolish to try to do everything yourself, to try to be the sole voice, when you’ve so much there,” said Best.
“You’ve guys that have captained the Lions in Test matches, guys who have played on multiple Lions tours, there’s a lot of experience, a lot of quality players.
“And I’d like to think one of my strengths is just to be a bit more of a balance in the middle of it all.
“I’m not ridiculously laid back, but I try not to get too uptight or clouded with my judgement.
“I have a great relationship with Johnny (Sexton); he knows how to run a game and doesn’t need me coming to tell him what to do.
“He knows all the right things to do, he’s done it time and again.
“It’s really important that he and Pete (O’Mahony) feel it’s an environment where they can say whatever they want.
“That firstly I won’t get offended, and secondly that the team can hear it and understand what they want.
“I’ve really enjoyed captaining Ireland for that very reason, it’s a great leadership group.
“If you can work together well as well as get on with each other well, it’s a great place to be.”