Ulster Rugby v Dragons


Now in his 15th season with Ulster, captain Rory Best has been through it all with the team.

He’s experienced low times with the Province, as well as the highs of winning the Celtic League and competing in the Heineken Cup final, but now the 36-year old believes this is a very promising time to be an Ulsterman. Best has seen long-standing team-mates such as Paul Marshall, Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble call time on their careers in the last year, with the hooker now the elder statesman of a youthful revolution at Kingspan Stadium. He quipped after the win over Leicester a couple of weeks ago that his eldest son, Ben, is closer to age to Michael Lowry than he is himself, reflecting on just what Head Coach Dan McFarland is trying to cultivate within his squad. With the Banbridge man now firmly the most experienced in the dressing room, he doesn’t see that as a negative, rather this is the beginning of a turnaround for the Province. “I think this is an exciting time to be around Ulster,” he states. “There are a lot of players who are going to get a lot of experience at the top level and, yes, it’s probably a longer-term goal, but if we can keep competing and keep improving, all you need to do is reach a stage where you make the playoffs. “It feels lean now because you’re not competing with Racing for the full 80, but

the green shoots of recovery are there. I’m a lot more optimistic now because I can see a pathway for us to improve if everyone buys in.” Last season saw Ulster finish outside the domestic playoffs for the second consecutive season, as well as not making it to the knockout stages in Europe, however there is a new optimism around the camp this year with McFarland in charge. “Aspects from the early to middle of last season, you were losing games and getting really frustrated because we didn’t know how we were going to be able to navigate our way out of it and it was a downward spiral,” Best says. “But this season, I hate losing and losing in an Ulster jersey is disappointing, but even if you think back to the Munster game, there were some aspects from that game that we could build on and the same in the two defeats either side of Leicester. “That makes you think there’s plenty for us to go forward with, whereas last season it was like a leaky dam - wherever you put your finger in you couldn’t get it to stop. “Last year I struggled with it because it wasn’t very enjoyable, but this year with the group of players we have, and bringing in guys



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