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100 not out ...but Payne injury blow takes shine off Rory's Ireland milestone

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 26/11/2016

Centurion: Rory Best will become the first Ulsterman to win 100 Ireland caps
Centurion: Rory Best will become the first Ulsterman to win 100 Ireland caps

Ireland are sweating over the readiness of Jared Payne and Sean O'Brien to face Australia at the Aviva stadium this evening (5.30pm kick-off) after both men missed training yesterday.

Joe Schmidt, who will see his captain Rory Best become the first Ulsterman to 100 caps, had on Thursday named three players - Simon Zebo, CJ Stander and Rob Kearney - who had yet to prove their fitness.

With Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw already out, two further key men developing what were described as "tweaks" will be of big concern to the Ireland set-up as they prepare to face the third-ranked side in the world.

"We've a couple of guys that have a couple of niggles," said the defence coach Andy Farrell yesterday. "The captain's run is normally just a stretch-your-legs type session, so we made a couple of decisions in the morning to rest Jared Payne and Sean O'Brien."

With or without his ailing team-mates, the clash provides yet another memorable day in the storied career of Rory Best.

The first Ulsterman to 100 caps, he joins Brian O'Driscoll, John Hayes, Ronan O'Gara and Paul O'Connell as the only men to hit the milestone.

"No, I think it would be safe enough to say that I didn't," he said when asked if he envisaged becoming a Test centurion. "I still remember the first cap. It doesn't seem that long ago.

"When you get your first cap for Ireland, it's like a dream come true and all you want to do is the next one so you don't stay on that one cap.

"After that, every time you get picked, you feel unbelievably lucky. You tick quite close to 50 and you go 'Can you imagine getting to 50?' But now to be on the verge of 100 caps, it is quite hard to believe."

And the 34-year-old shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

"I feel I'm playing well, I think there's a lot made of turning 30," he added.

"Everyone then says you're done. But for me age is just a number.

"When you've never been overly fast and you lose a little bit of pace as you get older, hopefully it doesn't matter.

"Hopefully you make it up in your head.

"I don't see that I'm playing any worse than I ever did, so I feel fit, happy with my game and the big thing for me is I'm really enjoying it at the minute."

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