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I'm so lucky to have a wife & family who understand the pressure & pain that come with good things; RUGBY STAR RORY BEST REVEALS HIS STRENGTH.

Byline: EXCLUSIVE JILLY BEATTIE BY j.beattie@mgn.co.uk

RORY Best lies on a huge settee cuddling his nine-week-old daughter Penny.

In a flash his son Ben flies through the air onto his rugby player dad, landing with gusto, screaming in delight.

And in a single moment Rory Best, the man, is revealed.

Strength and tenderness, physical power, mental agility and the ability to save and protect.

As toddler Ben is caught mid-air in one arm, baby Penny is held aloft in her father's free hand, and somehow Rory's words to his energetic son also work to soothe his tiny, startled daughter.

Within seconds all is calm again.

Giggling Ben snuggles into his dad and Penny has dropped off to sleep, safe in the arms she has only known for weeks.

Wife Jodie might say this is Rory at his best - family man, happy, relaxed.

His team-mates though might disagree, for they rely on his well-honed hypervigilance to see play on the rugby pitch not only while it's happening but to predict it before it's happened - just some of the skills he now uses as a dad.

But Rory, from Poyntzpass, Co Armagh, who plays Hooker for Ulster is shy to talk about himself.

He's not an extrovert and the idea of promoting himself is quite alien.

Yet his career has been stellar in the face of his admission he is not the fastest or the strongest player on the pitch.

However he has been capped for Ulster 62 times and 130 for Ireland.

And at 30 he believes he still has at least three good years left, maybe five.

So he is doing everything in his power to stave off the day he has to hang up his boots and start farming full time, like his brother Simon who was forced to announce his retirement four years ago due to an irregular heartbeat.

Rory explained: "At my age I'd started to feel it more when I came off after a match. I'd sort of creak and groan a bit and it was taking longer to recover.

"But I still need to train as much and play as hard. I practise about 100 throwins every night in a byre on top of the regular training. It can be tough."

After working for five months to recover from an operation on his neck in 2010, Rory was worried he might be out of the game for good after a bang to the head earlier this year.

He said: "It was in a similar area to a disc I had to have rebuilt and fused in place but in the end I had badly stretched ligaments in my neck and have recovered well." Throughout the ups and downs of the game and the injuries, Rory has been a constant on the Ireland team and has retained the captaincy of Ulster.

And it is apparent he has all the attributes of a leader - calm under pressure, strong, confident, energetic, a man the team can rely on with out complaint.

Well-liked and respected by team-mates and the opposition, the game has been a major part of his life, and thanks to his success, helped provide for his family.

He works part-time as a cattle farmer near Gilford, part of his family's 1,000 acre farm which is worked by his brother Simon and dad John.

It is a massive undertaking for a professional sportsman but Rory knows the rugby will not last for ever.

As a couple the Bests agree the game, the practice, the ups and downs, the injuries, time apart and the travelling have had a major impact on their lives.

But for the couple who met as school kids at Portadown College, it has all been worth it.

Rory added: "We have a jokey notice in the cloakroom which says, 'This marriage is being interrupted in the interests of rugby' and we've had lots of moments over the last 15 years when rugby has just had to take priority. But we're so grateful for what it has given us and I'm lucky to have a wife who is such a brilliant support.

"We have a lovely home and really appreciate the time we have together, and now with the kids we're even luckier.

"Jodie works hard as a teacher in Armstrong School, Armagh, and looking after the children and our home, and I work hard at farming and the rugby. Then I splurge now and again in the kitchen and make nice meals we can relax over.

"So we have a good balance in our lives and we're both very grateful. But we wouldn't have it without putting in the hours and the effort."

Rory revealed Jodie went to every home match he played in - and continued to after Ben was born.

He said: "Now Penny's here, she'll come along too. We've really incorporated rugby into our family life and I love having everyone together although I know it's a massive effort, particularly for Jodie.

"She even traveled to New Zealand with our parents to see me play and while that sounds wonderful, we hardly saw each other because I was training, injured, healing under ice packs and playing.

"It's not all just the game and the glamour - there's a lot more to it no one really sees. That's why it's so special to me that I have a wife and family who understa d nd nd nd the he he pre re ress ss ss ssur ur ur ur ures es es es es ad nd nd nd nd the he he he he he p i ai ai ai ai ai ai ain th th th th th th th th th t at at at at at at at at come with all the good things." understand the pressures and the pain that come with all the good things."

It is this support - and Rory's determination - that is key to his success. In addition he has also discovered the benefits of an omega oil supplement.

Rory added: "For the past six months I've been taking a supplement called Paradox and it's not only helped my concentration but my recovery period has also decreased after a match, I seem to heal faster and I ha ha ha ha have ve ve ve ve b t et et et et ette te te te ter fo fo fo fo fo focu cu cu cu cu cu cus an an an an an an and t st st st st st st st stam am am am am am amin in in in in in ina. a. a. If it it it it it it it it can an an an an an an an giv iv iv iv iv iv iv ive t k th i th have better focus and stamina. If it can give me an extra week, month or year in the game, I'll keep at it.

"I'm not the fastest, I'm not the strongest but hard work and mental determination has helped me get to where I wanted.

"For now I'm enjoying it all and looking forward to the day I can take Ben and Penny onto the pitch together to soak up the good vibes the Ulster and Ireland fans always send my way."

I'm not the fastest or the strongest but hard work got me there RORY BEST

CAPTION(S):

TODDLER n TACKLE Rory relaxes at home with two-year-old Ben and baby Penny

CAPTAIN ZRory Best

HOOKED J at home with Penny, Ben and Jodie
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 16, 2012
Words:1262
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