Rory Best and Jack McGrath are no strangers to each other in the front row or off the pitch.
“Ach I get on very well with Jack,” says Best.
The Irish hooker went to McGrath’s wedding the summer after the last Lions tour. With the Leinster prop now confirmed as an Ulster player next season, Best sees it as karma, an indication that Ulster are getting it right in Belfast.
“I think it’s a good thing for us that the players want to come up to us. I think it’s massive,” said the Ulster and Ireland captain. Nor are Dublin players arriving in Kingspan Stadium an uncommon thing anymore.
Last week John Cooney, Eric O’Sullivan, Marty Moore, Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy, Alan O’Connor and Dave Shanahan were all in the match-day 23 against Leinster. Soon McGrath will add his name.
“For Ulster itself, to have somebody of the quality of Jack McGrath coming up in a pack where that is always, certainly the last couple of years, that’s been a bit of an Achilles heel,” said Best.
“When it came to the big games we’ve had a tendency to be beaten up a little bit so if you can bolster it with the likes of Marty Moore and Jordi this year and now Jack next year, I think it is really important for us.
“And I’m sure it was a really, really tough decision for Jack to leave the club that he grew up wanting to play for. I think it’s fantastic news for us so hopefully it’s going to be a good move for Jack. I hope they took a big of encouragement from the way that the likes of Marty and Jordi have settled in.”
O’Sullivan, who went to Trinity College and played in the backrow before Leinster advised him there were more opportunities in the frontrow, is a case in point of a player, who might benefit from the experience of an Ireland and Lions loosehead.
“It’s important that the young players are given time but it’s also important they’re nurtured,” explained Best. “Eric O’Sullivan has been absolutely fantastic for us this year. He’s not young in terms of age, but in terms of experience in professional rugby, he’s young.
“He is somebody that just anytime you talk to him, anytime you ask him to do something, he just wants more and more information so for a Lion to come up to work alongside him. I think is fantastic for him.”