Belfast Telegraph

It's a bittersweet honour for new Lions skipper Rory Best

By Michaell Sadler

The honours just keep coming for Rory Best as the Ulsterman is captaining the British and Irish Lions for Tuesday's meeting with the Chiefs just days after being awarded the OBE for services to rugby by The Queen.

But Best's cause for a double celebration will have been somewhat tarnished by the fact that his leading role in Tuesday's game means that the 34-year-old now looks to be out of Warren Gatland's plans for Saturday's first Test against the All Blacks at their Eden Park fortress in Auckland.

Masking his disappointment, the Ireland skipper has revealed how his Lions team-mates have reacted with typical humour to him being named in last weekend's Queen's Birthday Honours list.

"They all congratulated me and we went out for a bit of a dinner together, so they're now calling me 'sir' as well," admitted Best.

"(Prop) Joe Marler (who also plays tomorrow) won't let me carry my kit bag, he's carrying it for me.

"But it's all good fun and there were a lot of sincere congratulations as well," he added.

Best will be hoping that he leads the Lions to victory and that there will be no repeat of the previous time he captained the side when the Brumbies narrowly triumphed four years ago on the tour to Australia.

Meanwhile, the selection of Best's fellow Ulster tourists Iain Henderson and Jared Payne in tomorrow's starting side also strongly suggests that they too are likely to miss out on the first Test.

But the door may not have completely closed on the versatile Henderson's chances of making Saturday's bench after impressing last weekend as a sub in the 32-10 victory over the Maori All Blacks.

However, this will depend on Henderson's game-time against the Chiefs with Alun Wyn Jones, who is benching tomorrow, perhaps already uppermost in Gatland's back-up plans.

Flanker Peter O'Mahony may also be leading the Lions into battle with the All Blacks with tour skipper Sam Warburton tipped to be benching on Saturday.

Belfast Telegraph


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