Rugby round up
Sunday 26 January 2020
You win or you die: The Game of Thrones fans among you may have picked up the reference I threw into last week's news letter. Little did I realise, though, just how much of a parallel could soon be drawn between the show's eagerly-awaited conclusion and the last chapter of Joe Schmidt's Ireland reign. The anticipation had been mercilessly ramped up with every passing season, the appetite whetted for the most glorious of deciding battles. Unfortunately, the finale failed to live up to the hype, either in Westeros or in Japan, leaving the emotionally-bereft onlooker robbed of the promised glory. Both Schmidt's spell and GOT will, in time, be remembered as the best there has been to date, but the offensive climax leaves room for a new king.
The Best is gone: Since Rory announced his retirement on April 18, each goodbye has seemed more emotional than the last. His initial press-conference, hurried and impromptu as it was, formed the first trickle of the tears to follow. The Kingspan farewell was a true family affair as Connacht were dispatched in May but Saturday's emotions hit home the long-established fact that the end was nigh. As my more esteemed colleague wrote earlier this week, "Ireland's most successful captain, he goes down as one of Ulster's true greats."
The World Cup rumbles on: All local eyes seem to have turned to the PRO14 already but what about a thought for the marooned Jonathan Bradley? Our chief rugby correspondent is stuck in Japan for the next two weeks in order to bring you the latest from the Rugby World Cup. It doesn't just stop once Ireland go out, you know. It must be said, with two semi-finals and the biggest game in world rugby to follow, it's hard to muster up too much sympathy for him.
Ulster are back: The PRO14 campaign returns on Friday when Cardiff Blues visit Belfast (kick-off 7.35pm). As if Rory's retirement wasn't enough bad news in one week, we now know that the Ulster Rugby Round Up podcast's favourite player Michael Lowry is out injured after ankle surgery. As we await his return, you can follow all the Ulster games via our live blogs on the website. Get well soon, Michael!
Gareth Hanna
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Family occasion: Rory Best leaves the Tokyo stage with his children Ben, Penny and Richie (left) Farewell Rory Best - Ireland's most successful captain will go down as a true Ulster great By Jonathan Bradley Things came full circle on a day when Rory Best had no interest in such symmetry.
Powerful display: New Zealand’s Matt Todd scores a try on Saturday Joe Schmidt has been great for Irish rugby but now we need some of New Zealand's attacking magic By Tony Ward This had the potential to be the greatest day in our rugby playing history bar none.
Rory Best saw his international career come to an end following defeat by New Zealand in Tokyo. (Adam Davy/PA) Rory Best is gone but I'm not expecting an exodus of Ireland stars after World Cup exit By Chris Henry It never really goes away, the feeling of loss like that.
Ireland’s CJ Stander with his wife Jean-Marié. CJ Stander's wife slams 'sad' media reaction to Ireland's Rugby World Cup exit By Gabija Gataveckaite CJ Stander's wife Jean-Marié Stander has called media reaction to Ireland's loss against the All-Blacks "disrespectful".
Rory Best's career came to an emotional end in Tokyo. 'I've loved every minute': Emotional Rory Best hails Joe Schmidt as Ireland careers come to an end in World Cup loss to New Zealand By Gareth Hanna It's typical of Rory Best - the ultimate leader - that he would take the moment of his retirement to heap praise on somebody else.
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Rory Best leaves the pitch after Ireland's defeat to New Zealand. Rugby World Cup podcast: Reflecting on Rory Best's retirement, Ireland's early World Cup exit and Michael Lowry's injury The Ulster Rugby Round-Up's World Cup special series, in association with Remus Uomo, is back to bookend Ireland's involvement in the 2019 tournament.
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