Ireland and Ulster captain Rory Best will call time on his career after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Best will be 37 come the conclusion of the tournament in Japan and after 15 seasons at the highest level in rugby felt it was a ‘luxury’ to dictate when his career would end.
Ulster’s most-capped Ireland international, Best has won 116 caps at the head of the front-row as well as making 216 appearances for his province.
With Joe Schmidt’s side aiming to become the first Irish team to reach a World Cup semi-final, Best was reflective on his career to date which has seen maiden victories over the All Blacks and Six Nations Grand Slams.
“This feels like the right time for me to go out on my terms, a luxury for which I feel very privileged,” Best said.
“I am very excited for the end of the season with Ulster and for the upcoming World Cup with Ireland, both of which I hope to finish with a massive high, playing at the top of my game.
“In my 15 years at this brilliant club, I have been lucky to have met, played alongside, been coached by and supported by many great people, and I would like to thank every individual for the time they have invested in me since 2004.
“I grew up supporting Ulster Rugby, have been fortunate to play and captain Ulster Rugby, and now look forward to supporting Ulster Rugby in the future with my family.”
For the World Cup in Japan, Ireland are pooled with Scotland, the Cherry Blossoms, Russia and Samoa, with their previous best finishes being the quarter-final stage at seven of the eight tournaments thus far.
Hoping to break new ground in the autumn, Best’s immediate attention lies with dealing with an ankle injury before a title tilt in the PRO14 with Ulster.
In Dan McFarland’s first season at the helm, the Ulster men are already assured of a place in the knockout stages and are going in search of a first league title since 2005-06 – a campaign Best was a part of.
Ulster Rugby’s operations director Bryn Cunningham said Best was the most senior player at the province and had made a distinguished impact on the club.
“No player representing Ulster Rugby has had a more profound impact in the professional era than Rory,” Cunningham said.
“When Rory enters the room, everyone waits for his words. On the training pitch, he demands high standards at all times. During a match, players turn to Rory for leadership and direction. He has been our all-encompassing talismanic figure for more than a decade.
“Rory’s ability to not only stay at the top, but also fight his way through adversity, shows the strength of character he possesses.
“The ever-present support of the Best family on the side-lines, in particular Jodie, Ben, Penny and Richie, encapsulates Rory as the ultimate family man. We know that they will continue to follow Ulster Rugby for many years to come.
“Rory will justifiably go down as one of the greatest legends of Ulster and Irish Rugby.”
One of the most decorated hookers in rugby history, the British & Irish Lion was awarded an OBE in 2017 for his services to rugby.
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