Wednesday 29 January 2020

Herring is determined to play his way out of Best's shadow

Rob Herring
Rob Herring

It is anyone's guess as to which hooker will eventually succeed Rory Best when the Banbridge man takes leave of the international stage.

At this point, it is barely conceivable that Ulster's most heroic son will age overnight or even over the course of the next three months.

However, there are those who rank Rob Herring above Ireland's captain, in pure playing impact.

There is a strong argument to be had about the merits of this unsung northern front row forward.

Leinster's Seán Cronin and Munster's Niall Scannell have also had to take a back seat to Ireland's captain when it comes to the international arena.

At least those two have been able to return to their provinces and the comfort of first team action to soothe their disappointment.

"Seán only has it with Ireland, but I have it at Ulster as well," joked Herring.

"It's something we're all pretty used to. Over the last four years, it's pretty much been us four hookers being 'repped' in and out in the various squads.

"Look, it's a very competitive position, I'm aware of that and the other hookers are as well.

"Ultimately, that's what you want," he stated.

"We're all driving each other, driving the standards and I think this eight-week block will see us improve because we're all driving each other on.

"We know how competitive the position is."

Ironically, the reason given for Leinster's extras to move up the M1, to further their international ambitions, could be made for Herring coming the other way.

The grandson of a Belfast woman recalls his first World Cup memory as that of South Africa's glorious story in 1995 when Herring was five years old.

Since then, his allegiances have shifted from where he grew up to where he has lived, worked and played for seven seasons.

The Cape Town kid is setting out on his eighth year at Ulster as one of their longest serving and most consistent players.

In four years, Herring has made enough progress to move from feeling 'lucky' to make the pre-World Cup squad to leaning into the possibility of making the 31-man roster this time around.

"This year, I'm a lot more motivated to play a big part in this team and to help us achieve something we haven't achieved before," he shared.

"I'm a lot more confident as a player, a lot more experienced and, hopefully, I can just do my bit to help the team."

As regards the chase for the number 16 shirt in Japan, Cronin and Scannell, a replacement tomorrow, will just have to bide their time.

Herring will be the first hooker to pull on the Irish shirt this season.

He will do everything in his powers to make sure it will happen in Japan too.

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