Tension may be mounting in the Ireland camp ahead of Eddie O’Sullivan’s World Cup squad announcement but there was plenty of banter and laughter all-round at training today as Ulster flanker Neil Best unveiled his new ‘man bob’ haircut.
‘Besty’ was the victim of some good-natured slagging as the Irish squad trained at St. Gerard’s School in the morning sunshine. The tough-tackling 28-year-old’s highlights brought back memories of Brian O’Driscoll’s blonde bombshell days of 2004.
Christened a ‘man bob’ by his team-mates, Best’s new look is certainly an early entry into the 2007 Rugby World Cup’s worst haircut charts. Perhaps the Belfast native is in mourning over the exit of former Irish international Shane Byrne – a man who has not seen the inside of a barbers for some time – from RTE’s Charity You’re A Star last night?
Whatever the reason for the change of style, it just adds to the enigma that is Neil Best – how many rugby players do you know who hold a degree in chemical engineering, a masters in polymer engineering and are studying for a certificate in financial planning? Add in his love for cooking and liking for drinking maple syrup straight from a cup and you have just a few of the ingredients that make up this wrecking ball of a flanker, who was only first introduced to rugby aged 16.
His abrasive tackling was a highlight for Irish fans when he starred in matches against New Zealand and Australia last year.
Speaking after last November’s autumn internationals, he said: “Physically I feel that I have changed and have become much stronger. I think I’m now more mature, and have more self control and discipline. I am a more intelligent footballer, thinking of the bigger picture, not letting any personal issues get in the way of my rugby, and now think I’m setting an example for the younger players.”
You never know, a starring role at the upcoming World Cup and Best’s man bob could soon be the haircut to have for Ireland’s young rugby talents!