Belfast Telegraph

Rory Best desperate to give Tom Court a taste of glory

By Niall Crozier

Ulster linchpin and hooker Rory Best was delighted to see his erstwhile front row colleague Tom Court join him on 150 appearances for the province at the weekend.

Best reached that milestone on January 18, the night on which Ulster beat Leicester Tigers 22-19 at Welford Road to complete a perfect played six, won six Pool 5 record, thereby earning themselves Heineken Cup top seeds status. Court's 150 not out came on Saturday night at Murrayfield.

With the Six Nations campaign and subsequent recuperation from it having seen Best miss all six of Ulster's matches since that memorable night in the Midlands, he was not at Court's side when the big loose-head caught up in terms of appearances.

Court's often unheralded time as an Ulster player is ending. When the curtain comes down on 2013-14, the 33-year-old will be packing his bags to join London Irish.

He is one of three of Ulster's first-choice front five forwards moving on, the others being South African lock and captain Johann Muller and New Zealand tight-head John Afoa.

With Muller having been a member of the Springboks squad which won the 2007 World Cup and Afoa one of the All Blacks who lifted the William Webb Ellis Trophy four years later, Court's departure may have been overlooked by some Ulster followers.

Best, though, is particularly mindful of Court's pending exit. And he really hopes to see the burly number one collect a winner's medal before heading across the Irish Sea.

"Tom's last-ever games for Ulster could be the Heineken Cup and PRO12 finals and hopefully he will leave a winner," Best said.

"Johann and John have been great servants, but they have been here three or four years, whereas this is Tom's eighth season with Ulster Rugby and I think people maybe tend to forget that.

"He has come through a lot and he, as much as anyone, has changed the way he plays and the way he goes about looking after himself to be a better player.

"I think it will be very touching for Johann and John, yes. But for me it would be absolutely massive if we could send Tom Court away with a winner's medal.

"He has been beside me in an awful lot of Ulster front rows. Tom has been around a long, long time and personally, I've been through a lot of stuff with him, side by side in the front row.

"We have seen a lot of partners change. I'm going to miss him, and I make no secret of that.

"So there are three big reasons for wanting to win silverware. Johann, John and Tom are leaving and in view of what they have done for Ulster it would be fitting if they left having won something."

There is an element of déjà vu for Best, who has already come through the emotion of bidding a talismanic colleague farewell in the recent past – Brian O'Driscoll.

Like Muller, BOD announced his retirement in advance, enabling his Ireland team-mates to give him the best possible send-off by winning the 2014 Six Nations.

Referring to the parallels, Best said: "When you get to this level there isn't a big difference between any of the teams so it comes down to the smallest things.

"It might even be an element of you feeling that it's fate. If you feel that it's fate, that maybe gives you half of a percent extra belief and sometimes that is all it takes."

Like the man said, Muller, Afoa and Court provide three very big reasons for wanting to win silverware.

Belfast Telegraph


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