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'Don't let your career slip by like we did'

By Stefan Frost
Rory Best leads Ulster on a lap of honour after the Champions Cup win over Racing 92 in January (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

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Rory Best has issued a stark warning to Ulster’s young stars, insisting the team have a finite amount of time to break their trophy drought.

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The Irish province impressed this year, comprehensively beating Munster in the playoffs before losing by two points to the Stormers who went on to win the inaugural URC title.

Weeks earlier Ulster came within inches of knocking out reigning champions Toulouse in the Champions Cup, only for replacement tighthead Tom O’Toole to see red for a high tackle, helping the French outfit on their way to eventual victory.

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Amidst the disappointment, Dan McFarland’s side have cause for optimism, with plenty of young talent emerging throughout their squad. However, Best believes his former team must not become complacent and fall into the trap of trusting their time will come.

“I think they have to be very careful. We said it after the Toulouse game, this wording of ‘it’s a project’. The squad has enough talent to win a league,” Best told BBC’s The Ulster Rugby Show.

“These young players haven’t been bitten by failure, like we were in an Ulster jersey. But if you allow them to say, ‘ah sure, it’s just a project’ and ‘sure, I have 10 years to win it’. That is a poor mindset to adopt.”

Ulster last won silverware in 2006, when they topped the Celtic League, but have been without trophies for 16 years since then. To end this drought, Best thinks a culture change is in order.

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“For me, there needs to be a real message of don’t let your career slip by like we did. We had plenty of success elsewhere, but there wouldn’t have been anything more special than winning in an Ulster Jersey.

“If you keep excusing that, the same thing will happen every year.”

Former Ulster winger Tommy Bowe added to the conversation, saying that he hopes the new era will be more successful than his own.

“After 2006 we felt at that stage that this crop would win multiple titles, and unfortunately we didn’t,” he said. “It is something that still bites us.

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“We both dream and hope Ulster can do it. We were all devastated last weekend, because we believe this team has the ability to do it. And we hope they do it very soon.”

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