Poll: Who is Ulster's best number two of the last decade?
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As we continue to look for Ulster's best XV of the 2010s, it's now time to have your say on the province's greatest hooker of the decade.
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Here's a look at the three contenders:
1. Rory Best
In a remarkable feat of longevity, Rory Best began the decade as Ulster's starting hooker and remained so until three months before it concluded.
A true great of the province, arguably few men have ever wielded a greater influence over goings on at Kingspan Stadium. Naturally durable - to the tune of over 300 pro appearances - a sterling scrummager and real breakdown threat, Best's most sought after quality was perhaps his leadership.
Captain to begin and (nearly) end the decade, he ceded the role to Johann Muller and then a combination of Rob Herring and Andrew Trimble at various points but there remained the sense that Best set the emotional pitch for the side throughout the period.
His achievements stretched beyond the white of Ulster and he will do down as Ireland's most decorated captain having led the side to a first pair of wins over the All Blacks, as well as the 2018 Grand Slam and a maiden victory on South African soil. Fitted in two Lions tours during the decade too before wrapping up his career just last week with a three-game run as a Barbarian.
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2. Rob Herring
For all Best's preeminence through the decade, Ulster have been hugely fortunate to have Rob Herring as a more than able replacement when the recently retired Ireland skipper has been absent through injury or international duty.
While it has now been largely accepted that depth wins trophies, there have been many times throughout the decade that the quality of the Cape Town native stuck out like a sore thumb on an Ulster replacements bench and he could have started regularly for many a Champions Cup side.
Good around the park, and strong enough at the breakdown that he made his first Ireland appearence as a makeshift flanker, Herring's best attribute is arguably an engine that regularly sees him make his tackles with unfailing accuracy.
Now finally getting his chance as Ulster's undisputed number two, it says much for his standing that the was made co-captain for the 2016/17 season and also amassed eight Test caps while essentially a provincial back-up.
3. Nigel Brady
Just as Best kept Herring in the number 16 jersey for most of the latter half of the decade, he had done similar to Nigel Brady for the first half.
A stalwart at Ravenhill who made his debut all the way back in the 2002/03 campaign, Brady would spend 11 seasons representing his native province, racking up a pair of Ireland 'A' caps in the process. A popular figure within the squad, when it came time to bid farewell before a career swansong with Jeremy Davidson at Aurillac, players pushed to have him granted a last outing at Ravenhill against Cardiff to round out the 2012/13 season.
In a game best remembered for the crowd's show of support to Best after his recent Lions squad snub, it was Brady who led the squad in their traditional end-of-campaign lap of honour round the pitch, bowing out after pulling on the white jersey 119 times.
Replacement hooker throughout the run to the Heineken Cup final in 2012, Brady returned home after his spell in France, first coaching his hometown club Dungannon before taking up the team manager role at Ulster that he still holds today.
Belfast Telegraph Digital