Belfast Telegraph

Rory Best prepared to go all out for Ulster Rugby glory

Ireland's Six Nations success has shown Rory Best what it takes to win silverware
Ireland's Six Nations success has shown Rory Best what it takes to win silverware

Michael Sadlier

THIS time around there is something different about Rory Best's usual rallying call as Ulster prepare for business after reaching Europe's last eight for the fourth time running.

Rugby round up Newsletter

Game previews, plus expert insights and exclusive commentary from the Belfast Telegraph sports team.

Instead of merely aspirational rhetoric of the gnawing hunger within the squad to bring silverware to Ravenhill, Best and his Ireland colleagues from Ulster now know just exactly what it takes to actually win a trophy after coming through last month's epic showdown with France in Paris.

The feeling is, that this experience, if properly harnessed, can only have a positive impact on Ulster's aspirations to more than merely challenge for top honours and will bring added value to the winning mentalities brought to the team by Johann Muller, Ruan Pienaar and John Afoa.

Best did, of course, also bring a winning medal home from Ireland's Grand Slam season back in 2009, but that had little immediate impact in Ulster as that was before they had recovered from their dark times to bring re-calibration to the squad and re-definition of ambitions.

Now he, along with Chris Henry, Andrew Trimble and Iain Henderson, have all stood tall to come through the cauldron that was the Stade de France and have brought this hard-earned knowledge and added self-belief back to Ulster to re-energise those around them for the battle which lies ahead on Saturday evening when Saracens run out at Ravenhill for a Heineken Cup quarter-final.

It seems that exposure to Joe Schmidt's ways, have also had a galvanising effect on all those who were involved during the Six Nations – including Paddy Jackson, Dan Tuohy and Luke Marshall – but, for Best, the key factor for Ulster's European challenge was just how Ireland went about their business in the dramatic climax.

"The France game showed a few of us that you might think you are going to the nth degree to with something until you actually get into that position," said Best.

"In Paris, it was body on the line stuff for the full 80 minutes and that probably opened our eyes up to just how far you need to go to win something.

"We still haven't won anything as a group (at Ulster) so it makes you think that last May (in the PRO12 final with the then Joe Schmidt coached Leinster) did we go for it to that extent?

"I know we gave everything on the pitch at the RDS, but did we have an extra one per cent that we didn't think we had to give and could we have pulled that out of somewhere to win that game?

"The big lesson for me," adds Best, still referring to Paris, "is that whenever you don't think you have any more to give, if you dig deep enough you'll always find something. And it's those people who dig a little deeper, to find it, who win things.

"We had some big players from Leinster and Munster that really stood up in Paris and they are used to winning on big occasions, they know what it is like to get there and I feel a good proportion of our team (Ulster) now know that."

Digging this deep, if not further, to take Saracens' scalp is now the fundamental requirement.

Last season, according to Best, Ulster entered the quarter-final, with his former coach Mark McCall's side, off the back of a highly prized backs-to-the-wall PRO12 win at Leinster and landed up at Twickenham believing they were good enough to do the job.

Their hubris simply crashed and burned and this, says Best, can't be allowed to happen again, particularly at Ravenhill.

"This time, you can't afford to leave anything to chance, but it's a new year and a new pitch so we're hoping for a new result."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph