Just days after leading Ireland to a historic victory over the mighty All Blacks, Rory Best was again beaming with pride as he received an OBE at Buckingham Palace.
The veteran hooker was joined at the palace by his parents, who have both been decorated with MBEs, as he received his honour from the Prince of Wales.
On Saturday, Best captained Ireland in their hard-fought 16-9 win over New Zealand at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium – widely regarded as one of Ireland’s greatest results of all time.
The euphoria had barely died down before the Craigavon-born British and Irish Lion was back in the limelight for what he has described as his greatest individual accolade to date.
“You play rugby because you love it and then all of a sudden you get these awards, but I think of all the individual awards I’ve received in my career this is certainly the highest,” he said.
Best’s father John was previously honoured with a MBE for services to agriculture, while his mother Patricia was also recognised with an MBE for services to the public sector.
Best said: “I suppose they can’t really believe it. When I first told my family they were shocked but absolutely delighted – it means a lot to our family, especially with mum and dad having received MBEs.
“It’s a lovely family celebration.”
In more than 100 years of trying the Irish beat the All Blacks for the first time, also under Best’s captaincy, in Chicago in November 2016.
In a glittering career he has made 212 appearances for Ulster, been capped 113 times by Ireland and won four Six Nations titles – including two grand slams.
Speaking following the announcement of his OBE award in June this year, Best said: “To be recognised for contributing to a sport, for someone to feel I’m worthy of being nominated, and then to be deemed worthy, it’s quite incredible.
“My parents were obviously delighted. My mum and dad actually both have MBEs...so it was quite funny telling them I’d gone one better than them.”
Best became the first Ulster player to reach 100 caps for Ireland when he helped the men in green overcome Australia 27-24 in Dublin in November 2016.
At the same investiture ceremony, actor Hugh Laurie was awarded a CBE for services to drama. Laurie is best known for appearing in sitcom Blackadder and US drama House.
The Golden Globe award winner went to Eton and then Cambridge University, where he was president of the Footlights, a drama group that has produced some of the UK’s most celebrated actors and comedians –including the other half of his famous comedy partnership, Stephen Fry.