Best to retire after World Cup

Rory Best is looking to end on a high after confirming his retirement from rugby following this autumn’s World Cup.

Rory Best is looking to end on a high after confirming his retirement from rugby following this autumn’s World Cup.

Hooker Best skippered Ireland to a third-place finish in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations but will retire from the game having won four Championship titles, including Grand Slams in 2009 and 2018.

The 36-year-old succeeded Paul O’Connell as Ireland captain in 2013 and has led his country to arguably the most successful period in their history.

That time has seen them win the Championship on three occasions, including the memorable 2018 Grand Slam, and put together an historic year in 2018 that saw them lose just once and beat New Zealand on home soil for the first time ever.

Best had intimated he would retire from international rugby following the World Cup prior to the final game of this year’s Guinness Six Nations but has now confirmed that plan and extended it to all forms of rugby – including calling time on his career with club side Ulster.

“It is with mixed feelings that I announce my retirement from Ulster Rugby as of the end of this season,” Best told Ulster’s website.

“This feels like the right time for me to go out on my terms, a luxury for which I feel very privileged.

“I am very excited for the end of the season with Ulster Rugby 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.”

Best currently has 117 Ireland caps, 64 of which have come in the Championship, and he will look to add to that tally over the summer and into the 2019 World Cup in Japan – which starts on September 20.

Despite their incredible success in the Championship, Ireland have never reached the semi-finals of a World Cup – something the Ulsterman will be keen to rectify this year.

Having made his international debut against the All Blacks in 2005 and his Championship debut against Wales the following year, Best’s final Guinness Six Nations game was the 25-7 defeat to Wales in Cardiff last month.

Before that game – which was also coach Joe Schmidt’s swansong in the Championship – he reflected on his feelings about bowing out.

“I think it’s fairly certain that the World Cup will be the end for me,” said Best at the time. “Part of the reason I’m enjoying rugby so much, and I hope playing well, is because there’s that weight lifted off.

“I am in a really lucky position at the minute that, the way I am feeling, I can go to the World Cup and be at the top of my game. That will be a really good time for me.

“Plus Joe Schmidt said he didn’t want me to keep going without him!

“The championships in 2014 and 2015 probably meant more to me than the Grand Slam in ’09 did.

“You want to be that starting hooker, you feel it is so close and you are not distant from it, which is probably what I felt a little bit in ’09.

“I started every game in ’18 and I obviously felt like I played a large part in that success.”