Six Nations 2014: Rory Best back in form to boost Ireland
Six Nations 2014: Ireland hooker Rory Best hopes to play his way back into form ahead of the spring
Rory Best says he is hoping to play his way back into form in time for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign, having recovered from a broken arm.
The Ulster hooker suffered the injury in Ireland’s heartbreaking 24-22 defeat by New Zealand in the autumn but he was back in action on European Cup duty against Montpellier last weekend.
Best is now set to face Leicester Tigers this weekend with a place at the top of pool five up for grabs for the winner – and the 31-year-old hopes he can prove to Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt there are no signs of rustiness, having been named in the New Zealander’s 44-man provisional squad.
“During the game on Friday it was fine, that was probably as nervous as I’ve been in an Ulster game for a while,” Best said.
“But as the game went on I felt more and more comfortable, taking the hits and getting stuck in and that side of things.
“[Leicester and Montpellier are] two of the best teams in Europe, so if I can get through [both of] those, I played 70 minutes at the weekend and if I can something similar this weekend, then you go into the Six Nations and actually trying to build some form from those two games.
“But also you go in off the back of those real physical challenges in Europe, so your body’s actually fairly well prepared hopefully.”
Schmidt has included seven uncapped players in his provisional Six Nations squad, from which he will also pick the Irish Wolfhounds side which will face England Saxons.
Ulster hooker Rob Herring, Cardiff Blues No.8 Robin Copeland, Connacht prop Rodney Ah You, Ulster back row Robbie Diack and Leinster pair Martin Moore and Jordi Murphy are all included.
Scrum-half Kieran Marmion is the only uncapped back selected for the series while Tommy Bowe, Simon Zebo, Donnacha Ryan and Richardt Strauss are among the injured players who may yet figure.
“As always a number of the selections were very tight,” Schmidt told Irish rugby’s official website.
“Following on from the autumn internationals, there is an experienced core of players in the squad who will offer continuity, as well as some new additions who have been selected with an eye to the future.
“With Robin Copeland returning to play in Ireland next season (with Munster) it will be an opportunity for him to impress during the training week, while some of the younger or less experienced players such as Rob Herring, Iain Henderson, Rhys Ruddock, Kieran Marmion and Felix Jones have turned in some very positive performances to earn spots in the squad.”
Ireland Six Nations squad
Forwards: Rodney Ah You (Connacht), Stephen Archer (Munster), Rory Best (Ulster), Robin Copeland (Cardiff Blues), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Robbie Diack (Ulster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Rob Herring (Ulster), David Kilcoyne (Munster), Mike McCarthy (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Martin Moore (Leinster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Paul O’Connell (Munster), Tommy O’Donnell (Munster), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Dan Tuohy (Ulster), Damian Varley (Munster)
Backs: Isaac Boss (Leinster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Felix Jones (Munster), David Kearney (Leinster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Ian Keatley (Munster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Racing Metro 92), Andrew Trimble (Ulster)