Rory Best's eagerness to get back on the field for Ulster and Ireland sums up the man
"It probably took me most of that first year to not be petrified every time I went into a game."
11 month on from leading Ireland to victory against the All Blacks and Rory Best is absolutely desperate to be involved again. He was due for a playing comeback in late September but a hamstring tear in training saw to that.
The Ulster hooker is set to miss this weekend's Champions Cup tie against La Rochelle but he could have some involvement in the Guinness PRO14 clash with Leinster, on October 28. If he does, he is definitely in the mix to face South Africa on November 11.
If not, he may have to bide his time and watch someone else lead Ireland against the Boks. Peter O'Mahony is the leading candidate after his captaincy duties for the Lions, this summer, but Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray are options as established players in the leadership group.
Best spoke very honestly about the Ireland captaincy and his place in Joe Schmidt's team [from 19:40 below] on The Hard Yards podcast.
Far from ever feeling settled in the team, the 104-Test veteran admits he was watching Ireland's summer tour from afar and keeping note of the young players taking to the international game with ease. He said:
"Captaincy is something I enjoy doing. Obviously, with the Ireland role, I knew I was one of the players targeted for it, a couple of years back, after Paulie [O'Connell] retired. Still, when you're asked to captain your country, it is such a massive honour.
"Last year, I felt it was too much to do both [Ulster and Ireland] and the Irish stuff took priority. But then I found, last year, that not captaining was almost more frustrating. The two boys [Andrew Trimble and Rob Herring] were doing a good job but I'm not somebody that can sit on the fence. I felt like I was constantly saying, 'Well, what about this or what about that?'"
Best is hoping to play on until the 2019 World Cup, when he will be 37, so it is no surprise to hear he is seeking to groom a player to take over as Ulster captain on a long-term basis after himself. In Iain Henderson, he sees the perfect candidate.
As for the Ireland captaincy, he is eager to get back playing and Joe Schmidt he is ready to go from minute one in the Guinness Series. He said:
"It takes you a bit of time to settle into the captaincy and it probably took me most of that first year to not be petrified every time I was going into a camp or a game. It was just about relaxing and enjoying it and I felt I did do that on the Lions tour."
Best added, "Especially the home games, and they're all home in November, it is such a good environment to be at the minute. Even though you lose players and you think 'We can't cope without him or without him', we've shown that if you have good academies, good coaches, structures and a good team ethos, you can cope with the loss of almost anyone.
"I suppose I don't want to be one of the ones that misses out in November and for them to go, 'Actually, we can get away without him'.
"As much as anything, it's an environment you want to be in, train in and play in and putting yourself against the best teams in the world."
Best was joined on The Hard Yards by host Andy McGeady, SportsJOE's Pat McCarry and former rugby stars Denis Leamy and James Downey.
He also spoke about the Lions Tour to New Zealand, rooming with Henderson and Kyle Sinckler and his life away from rugby, on the farm.
THE HARD YARDS - Episode 32
2.00: Rory Best speaks about his current injury
4.15: His timeline to return playing
6.50: James Downey on his recent return to rugby
8.00: Rory discusses farming and life after rugby
12.30: Rory speaks about the Lions tour
14.20: Rooming with Kyle Sinckler and his uncommon love for all things Paul O’Connell
16.00: The downsides of rooming with Iain Henderson
17.15: The moment Rory knew he wouldn’t be starting a test game for the Lions
19.40: Being captain of Ireland and Ulster
21.00: Who Rory sees as his successor as captain in Ulster and potentially Ireland in years to come
26.00: James discusses Robbie Henshaw and Ireland’s centres for the November internationals
32.20: The panel discuss the situation with the Irish women’s rugby team and the new head coach position
38.06: Interview with former Munster and Ireland back row Denis Leamy
52.00: The gang goes through the weekend’s games
56.50: James answers your Twitter questions