A SHOCK omission from Warren Gatland’s original squad, Best was called up after Dylan Hartley’s verbal assault on referee Wayne Barnes in the Aviva Premiership final saw the hooker banned for 11 weeks, the Saint turned sinner ending his tour before it had even begun. Best was far more disciplined in his domestic final, although he couldn’t help Ulster overcome Leinster to lift the RaboDirect Pro12, and has proved to be a consistent performer since making his Ireland debut in 2005.
He was unlucky not to be one of the 37 players announced on 30 April for he has probably been the most consistent hooker in the British Isles for the past three seasons. An accurate lineout thrower, a strong scrummager and a valued leader he is a strong addition to the Lions squad.
Gatland has already said that Best now has a chance to make the Test team following his call-up, so it’s clear the coaches appreciate the quality of play the Irishman can bring to the tour. He’s vastly more experienced than Richard Hibbard and Tom Youngs, but needs to show he can contribute as much in the loose as he does in the tight because his rivals for the No 2 shirt are effective with ball in hand.
Leading Ireland to victory over Scotland in March 2012. Not only was he captain for the impressive 32-14 win at Murrayfield but he also contributed the first of Ireland’s four tries.
IF HE WERE A FOOD
Cheese – reliable choice, late addition to menu.
Odds for Test team 4-1
Age 30 (15 August 1982)
Dimensions 5ft 11in & 17st 4lb
Test caps 67
Test points 35 (seven tries)
Every 2013 Lions player is profiled in the July edition of Rugby World, with Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan giving his verdict on each member of the squad. Pick up your copy when it goes on sale on 4 June.