Belfast Telegraph

O'Brien was wrong to target Howley in Lions criticism, says Rory Best

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best believes his Lions team-mate Sean O'Brien was wrong to single out attack coach Rob Howley for criticism over the drawn Test series in New Zealand.

O'Brien, who started all three Tests against the All Blacks over the summer, said Howley "struggled with the group" and it was ultimately left to Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell to "run the attacking shape".

And while head coach Warren Gatland also came under fire for having the side over-worked heading into the first and third Tests, it sat uneasily with Best to hear such pointed criticism.

"It's his feelings but I don't think he should have singled out one coach," said the two-time tourist.

"He didn't single out anyone else one way or the other. From a forward's point of view, I have a massive amount of respect for Steve Borthwick. What he did, the way he coaches, the way he prepares. He didn't single him out the other way. Sometimes we just look at the negatives."

Best, who has been an Irish team-mate of O'Brien's since the Leinster flanker debuted for the national side in 2009, thinks there is certainly a requirement for honest and open feedback.

"Sean expressed an opinion. He probably shouldn't have singled out one guy in particular but I have no doubt that if that's how he felt, that wasn't the first time he said it," he said.

"He'll have said that to the coaches as well.

"I do think it's important to hear the feedback even if there are better ways of doing it. Seanie doesn't necessarily do things the way that most people perceive is the best way and that's what's so good about him.

"Seanie is a very passionate character. If he thinks something, he'll get it out there. After the first Test, he felt like he was in the position he said he was, tired and over-trained. It's hard for me to comment on that. I didn't play in that game. I know how I like to feel going into Test matches. I wasn't playing so I don't know where I was."

On how such opinions would usually be aired, Best added that he still expects the 2017 playing panel to be canvassed for their takes with a view to being better prepared for the trip to South Africa in four years' time.

"Maybe they've got all the feedback they want at this stage," he joked.

"Four years ago, I think there was but you have to remember that boys are only coming back in (to their club sides).

"Maybe the easiest way to do it is prior to the (national) camps, prior to autumn internationals.

"That's the easiest thing. Come in, hand out forms, whatever way it is."

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