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Ireland's All Blacks win ends 111 barren years and makes Best family so proud

Ex-international hails brother after historic triumph against world champs in Chicago

By Jonathan Bradley

Simon Best has said that he and his family couldn't be prouder of his brother Rory after an historic weekend for Irish rugby in Chicago.

Alongside Ulster teammates Andrew Trimble and Jared Payne, Best was front and centre as Ireland secured a famous victory over New Zealand, their first in 111 years of trying.

And now the 34-year-old, who also led the side to a first away win in South Africa last summer, has his name in the history books as the only Irish skipper to ever beat rugby's most famous side.

"It's been some six months for him," said Simon, who himself captained Ireland in a distinguished career cut short by a heart condition.

"It says a lot about Rory that when he came back having captained the side into uncharted territory with that win in South Africa, he was unhappy that they hadn't won the series.

"This team and management are writing their own history. They did us all very proud.

"I think Rory has shown incredible leadership since he took on the baton from Paul O'Connell and even before that he's been a leader in that side for a number of years. The proud thing for me and certainly the rest of our family is the way that he leads.

"He's not somebody who tries to do it all by himself. He empowers people around him. You've a team there who all shared the responsibility and were all able to express themselves. That's a testament to Rory.

"He's a very different character to Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell who went before him and are more charismatic leaders. Rory empowers people, he gives them confidence and he inspires them to get the best out of themselves.

"Growing up we used to go and watch New Zealand when they came to Dublin and it was such a pleasure. If Ireland put in a plucky performance all the better. That's what Irish rugby was about but this group of players, and going back 10 years, have changed that. They've taken it by the scruff on the neck.

"For Rory, in particular, taking that baton on, he won't accept second best."

While Simon's family and work commitments meant he watched the game from the comfort of his own sofa in Poyntzpass, the rest of the Best clan had made their way to America's Windy City.

Rory's wife Jodie and two of the pair's children, as well as his sister and parents, were in the stands at Soldier Field with Simon sure that the sight of his family will have been a real inspiration to make history.

"Jodie, his wife, and Ben and Penny, his two older kids were there watching on.

"Unfortunately son Richie is still a bit young for travel of that distance. Rory would have loved to have him there too obviously. Mum and dad and our sister Rebecca were all out there as well.

"When I played, and Rory is no different, it's great to have your family around you.

"It gives you that extra lift and he loves seeing them there for any match, whether that's New Zealand in Chicago or the Dragons in Belfast; having them around adds so much.

"We're all rooting for him no matter where we are but to have them there in the stadium, and to meet up with them afterwards, will have been great, especially Jodie and the kids.

"It's not easy going all around the world following your husband or son or father playing rugby, but occasions like that are what makes it all worthwhile. Those are memories they'll have forever."

Belfast Telegraph

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