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Neil will aim to end Best year on a high

By Ciaran Donaghy

It was a good Christmas for Ulster and Irish flanker Neil Best and he is hoping it will be an even better New Year's Eve.

The defending champions extended their lead at the top of the Mangers League with a hard fought victory over Connacht while nearest rivals Llanelli lost at the Ospreys.

Ulster now meet Leinster in Dublin on Sunday in the last ever game at the old Lansdowne Road, but Best knows the side must lift their game from the Connacht performance although he was delighted to secure the four points.

"It's always difficult to play against Connacht, they are a very hard side, both home and away," said Best.

"The conditions were bad in the first-half and that suited them. We're disappointed we didn't play the expansive game that we try to, but against a team like that you have just got to grind out the win."

One area Best is hoping for improvement in is the lineout, adding that he feels the Leinster game will be more of a spectacle.

He said: "There was an opportunity to steal lineout ball at the back with me and I didn't take it. I was disappointed I couldn't get up and get some of that, our own ball was sometimes good and sometimes not so good.

"We've a big game against Leinster and it is going to be a totally different occasion. Boxing Day is not the greatest time to play. The weather is not good, the fans are in holiday mode and it's hard for us to play against a side that is very destructive.

"We like to play an open game and Leinster are like that so hopefully it will be a much better match to watch and play in."

The sold out signs have been up for the last few weeks at Lansdowne and the match will set a new attendance record for the competition. There will be a lot of emotion as the fans bid farewell to the stadium, but Best believes that won't affect his colleagues once battle commences.

He said: "It's the last game at Lansdowne and there will be a lot of people there, but it won't make any difference to us.

"We're top of the league and this is a chance to redeem ourselves after playing poorly against Leinster at home.

"Hopefully the weather is a lot better and the rugby is a lot better. We enjoy playing good rugby and that is what our fans are paying to see, we train to do it and hopefully we can do it."

Last week Best was in Portugal bonding with his international team mates at an Irish training camp, but come Sunday he will be up against some of them and he is relishing the challenge.

"We were out there doing warm weather training and I enjoyed myself," he said.

"This is an opportunity to play against those guys again and we know them very well and they know us very well, so it will be an intriguing encounter.

"Both sides have quality throughout their team which should make for a nice send off for Lansdowne."

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