Rugby - Best celebrates late Lions call-up

Rory Best reflected on the fluctuating fortunes of professional sport as he prepared to join the British and Irish Lions' flight to Hong Kong on Monday night

PA Sport
Rugby - Best celebrates late Lions call-up

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Rory Best is determined to play a big part for the Lions after his late call-up

On April 30 Best was devastated to have been omitted from the 37-man squad selected for the tour to Australia, experiencing the darkest moment of his career. But just as Best was coming to terms with another hammer blow in Saturday's RaboDirect PRO12 final defeat by Leinster, news filtered through that Dylan Hartley had been sent off for abusing referee Wayne Barnes in the Aviva Premiership's equivalent earlier that afternoon.

An 11-week suspension was issued to Hartley and Best was immediately summoned by the Lions. He said: "When the initial squad was announced that was as low as I've felt. We were training at Ulster at the time and more and more people on our management were avoiding eye contact with me,"

He added: "Nobody avoids you when it's good news, so I had an idea from that. It was bitterly disappointing and on that Tuesday afternoon I allowed myself to dwell on it and think deeply about the whole thing. But we had a few very important games coming up so it's a case of picking yourself up and dusting yourself down.

"It was obviously disappointing to lose the RaboDirect PRO12 final to Leinster on Saturday but yesterday I got the call to come along and join the boys. You don't like to dwell on other people's misfortune, but I definitely feel for Dylan and it's bitterly disappointing for him to miss out. That's sport."

Best, who has been capped 67 times, had been appointed captain of Ireland's tour to North America and was due to meet up with the squad at their Carton House training camp on Monday morning.

But now that he is ready to embark on his debut Lions tour, only the Test number two jersey will do.

"The Lions are something you dream of, an absolute honour to be here. I had to pull over on to the hard shoulder to make sure I didn't veer off the road at that stage," he said.

"When you don't make the initial squad you try to stay fit and always keep your phone by your side. When the call came through it was a number I didn't recognise. I don't normally answer those but for this I made an exception. It was great news.

"Everyone's here to play in the Test team and I'm no different. It will take a lot of hard work but it's something I'm looking forward to."

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