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Ulster's Best, Payne and Henderson are the pride of British and Irish Lions

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Ireland captain Rory Best spoke of his pride after he and Ulster team-mates Iain Henderson and Jared Payne were yesterday named in coach Warren Gatland's squad for the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand this summer.

"It was elation," said Best on learning he would be part of the province's biggest representation in the touring party since the 1974 trip to South Africa.

"It would probably have felt like the end of the world for a few hours if I hadn't been named.

"With Jared coming back from his serious kidney injury, that put him out for three months, to be selected, it shows how good a player he is. We obviously know how important he is to Ulster and Ireland.

"To fight back and get into this squad is brilliant and for Hendy to get picked is great. I've seen first hand how hard he works. It just shows that if you keep your head down and keep working hard, you can get the rewards."

Henderson, who will have the most memorable of summers as he also ties the knot with his childhood sweetheart Suzanne within days of his return, described the challenge that awaits as the toughest in the game.

"There is no bigger challenge than playing the best team in the world and trying to beat them three times," he said, cradling the Lion mascot that legend Willie John McBride carried to South Africa in '74. "It'll be a very testing time not only for the body but mentally and emotionally too. It's an exciting prospect," he added.

Native Kiwi Payne joked that he hopes he doesn't lose too many friends over the summer as he takes on the nation of his birth.

Former Ulster winger Tommy Seymour, now of Glasgow but educated at Down High, was also selected.

Tour dates

(all kick-offs 0835 BST)

Sat, June 3: New Zealand Provincial Barbarians (Toll Stadium, Whangarei)

Wed, June 7: Blues (Eden Park, Auckland)

Sat, June 10: Crusaders (AMI Stadium, Christchurch)

Tue, June 13: Highlanders (Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin)

Sat, June 17: Maori All Blacks (Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua)

Tue, June 20: Chiefs (Waikato Stadium, Hamilton)

Sat, June 24: NEW ZEALAND (Eden Park, Auckland)

Tue, June 27: Hurricanes (Westpac Stadium, Wellington)

Sat, July 1: NEW ZEALAND (Westpac Stadium, Wellington)

Sat, July 8 : NEW ZEALAND (Eden Park, Auckland)

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