Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Suddenly, Best has roared to the front of the queue for Lions tour

Lions coach Warren Gatland will be a keen observer at no fewer than five different European knockout clashes this weekend and, when he pitches up in England HQ this evening, he will doubtless eye up one of the prime contenders to don his old No 2 jumper against Australia this summer.

Ireland's Rory Best has undoubtedly put himself right back in the Lions frame as number one hooker following his non-stop, pulsating performance in Ulster's superbly-fought victory over Leinster last week in Dublin.

Now the inspirational leader plans to seal that spot with an even more energised 80 minutes when Ulster take on hot favourites Saracens in the tea-time shoot-out at Twickenham, where a home Heineken Cup semi-final is the primary prize on offer.

Best is one of a number of Ulster's absent stars over the past month who are primed for the big one, including Ireland and Lions winger Tommy Bowe, who, is expected to be named on the bench after taking a full part in training this week.

"We put ourselves in a good position in the Pro12 and, even after a tough spell there, we still believed we could get a home semi-final in the play-offs," says Best, currently leading a pretty uninspiring race to take the hooker's berth on the Lions tour.

"We can now make sure we go and grasp that. We knew it was always going to be tough going over to London to play Saracens.

"This is the Heineken Cup. It is knockout rugby. There are no second chances and the ante is going to be upped again this weekend.

"We know that, we are well aware of that and the win last week is just what we needed. We raised our game against Leinster and now we have to raise it again."

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