RUGBY: Rory Best is focused on home matters

Ireland and Ulster's Rory Best
Ireland and Ulster's Rory Best

Rory Best has played down talk about touring New Zealand this summer with the British & Irish Lions as he aims to help turn Ulster’s fortunes around and also lead Ireland to an RBS Six Nations Championship.

The Ireland captain has been touted as a potential skipper on the Lions tour after impressive performances for his country during the November Guinness Test series which saw them defeat New Zealand for the first time.

He has also remained a talisman for Ulster although the Province have been going through a rough patch suffering eight defeats in their last 12 matches.

Best was initially overlooked for selection in 2013 to Australia for the Lions, but Dylan Hartley’s appalling disciplinary record resurfaced and ended him a call up.

The Ulsterman admitted it had hurt being overlooked initially but like most things he got over it and on with it.

“Everyone is very well-meaning when talking about things like the Lions, but four years ago it was tough not being involved in the initial squad,” Best said.

“Mentally it was very hard. If you start to look ahead to things like Lions squads now, you’ll forget about the game this weekend.

“And if your form suffers you don’t need to worry about the captaincy, because you’re not going to be in the squad.

“It’s such a competitive thing. It’s something I’m not really interested in talking about: I’m worried about performing to the best of my ability for Ulster and Ireland.

“And of course we’re focused fully on Ulster until the end of January.”

Ulster will meet Bordeaux on Saturday at Kingspan Stadium in their final Pool Five game in the European Champions Cup in what is a game of pride with little else at stake given the remote chances either have of getting out of the pool following defeats last weekend to Exeter and Clermont respectively.

Ulster are bottom of the pool, a point behind Bordeaux, and a win at Kingspan Stadium would be a huge confidence boost for the Province.

Best will start at hooker before then joining the Ireland squad as they begin preparations for the Six Nations Championships.

The Irish open with an away game against Scotland with many expecting the game between the men in green and England on the last day of the Championship in March being the potential decider and possibly both still in the hunt for a Grand Slam.