Ahead of next Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Italy, Ulster hooker and captain Rory Best has no fears over the ankle injury which sidelined him for a month.
Best damaged his ankle in Ulster’s Magners League defeat to Leinster on December 26 but made a quicker than expected return in the province’s Heineken Cup reversal at Gloucester last week.
Speaking at the Ireland team hotel in Killiney, he said: “The ankle feels fine. It was scary at the time because I didn’t immediately know the extent of the injury.
“I got a good 60 minutes in against Gloucester and there were no complications afterwards. I’ve got through all of the training sessions (since we’ve come into camp) and I feel fine – ready to go.”
While frustrated at how Ulster’s season has panned out, Best feels their home win over Bourgoin and battling display against Gloucester gives them hope for the immediate future as they welcome new coach Matt Williams aboard and attempt to secure Heineken Cup rugby for next term.
“We came off the pitch in Gloucester thinking that it was a game we could have won – there weren’t too many games this season when we were so disappointed. I think that display was more in keeping with the talent in the side,” he said.
“Matt has stressed that we must be more united as a team. Obviously, when you lose a tried and tested coach (in Mark McCall), there are an awful lot of fractions there.
“Matt has come in and tried to unite us with the one common goal of getting positive results. We knew last week that we needed to perform, not just to impress him but to do something for ourselves.”
Turning his attention to Ireland’s campaign and the push for first-team selection, Best knows, with Munster’s Jerry Flannery suspended, he is in a straight duel with a rejuvenated Bernard Jackman for the number 2 jersey.
“There is pretty intense competition for places in many positions, not least at hooker. Bernard has been a key figure for Leinster in the Heineken Cup and he’s pushing everyone for recognition,” he added.
The winner in that particular face-off will be confirmed tomorrow afternoon when Eddie O’Sullivan announces his team and replacements for the opener against Italy (Croke Park, kick-off 2pm).