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Best’s Call To Arms

Best’s Call To Arms

Ireland prop Simon Best is hoping for a winning start to his tenure as Ulster captain against Cardiff Blues tonight.

Simon Best before Ireland’s second Test against Japan

Ireland prop Simon Best is hoping for a winning start to his tenure as Ulster captain against Cardiff Blues tonight.

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The Craigavon man, who earned his second and third starts for Ireland on June’s tour to Japan, leads Ulster into action at the Arms Park having taken over as captain from the retired Andy Ward.

Best, 27, is determined to prove Ulster’s doubters wrong after last season saw them slump at crucial times. It’s been a long time since Ulster won away from their home fortress of Ravenhill – nine matches stretching back to November – and Best doesn’t need telling.

“Every game in the Celtic League is difficult, especially the away matches. People have gone to great pains to point out our away form has not been good, but we have a chance to change that in our opening match.

“Of all the teams in the League, Cardiff are most familiar to us. We played them four times last year and while things did not go our way over there, they were close contests,” he told the News Letter.

Cardiff replacement hooker Rhys Thomas scored the match-winning try, nine minutes from time, when the sides duelled out a 16-12 victory for the Welsh region at the Arms Park in the Heineken Cup last January. Three months on, an under-strength Ulster succumbed 22-8 to the three-try Blues on their return visit in the League.

Best feels – with new signings Justin Fitzpatrick and Justin Harrison beefing up the pack – Ulster are now in a position to challenge for League honours following a season in which coach Mark McCall admitted they were simply “too inconsistent.”

Best added: “We possibly did not perform the way we wanted to last year, but now is the time to go to Cardiff and get a win. We have the team there to do it.”

McCall has handed Ireland Under-21 centre Andrew Trimble his competitive debut on the left wing while Ballymena star Neil McMillan, who star out last year due to a serious cruciate knee ligament injury, is back and ready to fire in an exciting back row alongside Neil Best and number 8 Roger Wilson. Ulster were idle last weekend and ,thanks to the new League points system, the first side to earn four points for a bye.

McCall insisted: “We have a difficult start with three of our opening four games away from home including the Dragons and Leinster but there are times when the fixtures are a lot kinder and we have to cash in.”