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Best savouring return to action

By David Kelly

Lying flat on one's back on a cold, wooden floor would not, by choice anyway, be the preferred location for one to undergo the sort of introspection that accompanies a potentially life-changing event.

Rory Best, however, did not have a choice.

Late last summer, as he trundled into the familiarly habitual and banal treadmill of pre-season work, he had felt his neck buckle beneath the stresses and strains of weights and the pulling and pushing of loads. “Then one day it just went,” he says.

Surgeons found a disc in his neck was “bulging”. The prognosis was as jarring as the diagnosis. He may never play again.

That nobody was clear when the problem could have arisen further complicated matters.

“It could have been six weeks. It could have been six months. It could have been six years.”

An operation was inevitable. Resuming his career was not. It was not the first time such a seismic shock had been visited upon the family from Poyntzpass.

Almost three years ago to the day Rory went under the knife, his brother, Simon, had been sauntering around Ireland's Bordeaux World Cup base with Paddy Wallace before experiencing sudden dizzy spells.

He would later be forced to retire due to a heart condition. His younger brother had never really understood how that had felt. Not until those days lain prone on the wooden floor and the hospital bed.

From the introspective thoughts came perspective.

“When it doesn't affect you directly, you take the view of, ‘Oh well, that was unfortunate but these things happen',” he said.

“I suppose when you're in a situation when you have an injury which could rule you out for the season, you try to pick up positives.

“Mine was the realisation that finally I could have a bit of time away from playing rugby week in week out, giving me an opportunity to put some size and strength on.

“Playing regularly season to season, you don't get many windows to do that. I saw that as a big positive. There were highs and lows during the recovery process; there always is.

“But you have to try and stay as positive as possible.

“It hits home. While I was very lucky to play 90-odd times for Ulster, 30-odd times for Ireland, there's suddenly a realisation that this might be it.

“And it does make you appreciate what you've done and what you go through to get there. I suppose you try to savour every moment when you come back.”

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