Irish rugby icon Best says end is nigh for Test career


Dublin (AFP)

Legendary Irish hooker Rory Best says he is going to feel "a little bit sad" when the final whistle goes on what is likely to be his final home Six Nations match against France on Sunday.

The Ireland captain -- who turns 37 in August -- all but confirmed this year will be his last hurrah in the green jersey that come Sunday he will have donned 116 times.

Best has enjoyed memorable times as skipper with two historic victories over world champions New Zealand -- the first ever by an Irish side over the All Blacks in 2016 in Chicago and then a first home win in 2018 -- plus a Six Nations Grand Slam last year.

A wistful Best -- who made his Test debut back in 2005 -- said he is enjoying his rugby so much at the moment because his decision over his international future is all but resolved.

"I think it's fairly certain that the World Cup will be the end for me," Best said at his eve of match press conference.

"I feel really good and I don't feel that I'm playing any worse!.

"I'm really enjoying rugby and part of that might be because I haven't 100 per cent made the decision but I'd be fairly sure it will be.

"I think part of the reason that I'm enjoying rugby so much and playing -- well I hope playing well -- is because of that weight lifted off."

- 'Scene out of Shrek' -

Best, who has been on two British & Irish Lions tours, said the Six Nations would always hold a special place for him when he looks back on his career.

"Now that we're upon this, the captain's run (eve of match training session at Lansdowne Road), being out there with the sun shining for the first time this week, it just reminded me how special this championship has been, for me personally," said Best.

"To pull on that jersey in the Six Nations, it's been incredibly special for me.

"It's very hard to believe that in just over 24 hours, you'll potentially not get that opportunity again to play in a Six Nations here.

"It's a little bit sad.

"Whenever the game finishes and I get a little bit of time to reflect on it, it will be special."

Best, who combines his rugby with working on the family farm in Northern Ireland, said he would not go down the route of another Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll when he played his last home Test in 2014.

The centre had a photo taken with his daughter while a banner went round the ground with his image on it.

"I don't think there will be too many kids in the crowd or too many kids who need to see that," said Best.

"It would be like a scene out of Shrek, maybe leave that one off!"

Best, who all being well is set to play in his fourth World Cup, will not be the only big personality bowing out after the World Cup as head coach Joe Schmidt is to leave to.

"Joe said he didn't want me going without him, so he did!" joked Best.