A true son of Ulster’s soil, Rory Best’s achievements on the rugby field have been the stuff of legend over the course of a lengthy career at the top of the professional game, and for that reason he deservedly becomes the latest entrant into our Hall of Fame.
The 37-year-old amassed a sizeable and hard-earned list of honours from his time playing and captaining both Ulster and Ireland as well as representing the British and Irish Lions.
His name will forever be associated with Ireland’s first ever victory over the mighty All Blacks when he led the side to their epic 40-29 win over the then world champions in Chicago in November 2016.
Best then also skippered Ireland when they repeated the dose on New Zealand two years later, but this time on Irish soil, by 16-9 on a never to be forgotten night at a pulsating Aviva Stadium.
The Poyntzpass native, who made his Ulster debut in 2005, became one of rugby’s most well-known figures both on and off the field with the celebrated hooker’s final competitive game being played last autumn when Ireland crashed out of the World Cup in Japan at the hands of a vengeful All Blacks.
The former Portadown College pupil played 124 times for Ireland and is their most-capped forward. He is third on the list of most-capped players to have worn the famous green jersey and is only behind fellow legends Ronan O’Gara and Brian O’Driscoll.
A renowned leader, Best’s achievements at international level saw him play his part in two Grand Slams and four Six Nations titles.
He is also the only Irish captain to have overseen wins over New Zealand, South Africa and Australia and been in charge when the national side were ranked No.1 in the world.
He made his Ireland debut in November 2005 and played at four World Cups, the first, in 2007, along with his brother Simon, whose own playing career ended during the competition due to health issues.
Best toured with the Lions on both their tours of 2013 and 2017, in Australia and New Zealand respectively, but did not play any part in the Test sides.
While not enjoying anything like the level of success during his time with Ulster, Best was part of the side which dramatically snatched the league title back in 2006.
He played his last game in an Ulster shirt in last May’s PRO14 semi-final defeat at Glasgow Warriors.
The Banbridge clubman rose to become one of the game’s top scrummaging hookers and, as he became ever more experienced, emerged as an all-round player with considerable powers of resilience and an accurate operator at the breakdown.
The Gilford-based farmer was awarded an OBE for services to rugby in November 2018. He played his final game when leading the Barbarians against Wales at the end of November 2019.