“For A Few Moments, I Thought We’d Killed Rory Best’” – The Lions Tour Prank That Almost Went Horribly Wrong
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“Why don’t we push him down that hill?”
Former England international James Haskell has recalled a brilliant story from the 2017 featuring himself, Iain Henderson and Rory Best of a prank that almost went horribly wrong in his new book ‘What a Flanker.’
It’s not the first time Best’s name has come up when it comes to that tour with Joe Marler also noting his drinking capabilities in the past.
What started out as a few innocent drinks for breakfast and turned into an all-day bender, ended former Ireland captain Best in a rather precarious position to say the least.
Haskell recalls how Best and Henderson, who were both Ireland and Ulster teammates at the time, were inseparable on the tour of New Zealand. He notes that both men “had hollow legs” when it came to holding their drink and recalls how he was having breakfast one morning when the two Irish forwards came stumbling in.
In what was eight in the morning after the final test, where the Lions claimed a draw to tie the series, Haskell was convinced to have a drink with them which ended up turning into a full-blown all-day session.
“Rory and Iain Henderson were like Shrek and Donkey on that trip. They were inseparable and always cracking jokes, although I could only understand about half of what they were saying. I honestly thought Hendy was speaking Irish for the first few days,” Haskell wrote.
“While Rory is incredibly clever, I’ve never met a man who could drink so much without falling over. To be honest, both of them had hollow legs when it came to putting the drink away. If you tried to go head-to-head with either one of them, it would have been goodnight, Vienna.
“When I came down for breakfast the morning after the final Test, Rory and Hendy wandered in drunk. I knew there might be trouble ahead.
“The first thing Rory said was, ‘Want a drink, Hask?’ I didn’t really want a drink because it was only eight in the morning, but they persuaded me to have a cider with my eggs on toast.
“Once the bubbles hit my lips, that was it. We barely moved from that table for the next 15 hours. That’s not even hyperbole. We just sat there from 8.30 am to 10 o’clock at night, shooting the s***, crying with laughter and ploughing through more drinks than George Best on a good day.”
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But when some drinking games were introduced – things began to get a little messy.
“One was called Toothpicks, which involved sticking toothpicks in our faces. Nothing more complicated than that. I have photos somewhere of me looking like that bloke from Hellraiser,” Haskell added.
“Another was called ‘drink’, which involved necking whatever drink you had in front of you whenever Rory said, ‘Drink’.
“After a few hours, we all had beer boxes on our heads, with holes cut out for eyes and faces drawn on them. After about seven hours, I noticed that Rory was starting to drift off. To be fair to him, he had been drinking for about 20 hours, so I said, ‘Come on, old fella. Let’s have a little lie-down.’
“I wheeled in the hospital bed that had been Jack Nowell’s place of rest the night before and we put Rory on it and tucked him in so that he looked like a corpse – arms folded across his chest, like he had been read the Last Rites, blanket up to chin, his bald head poking out the top.”
Then Haskell thought it might be a good idea to wheel Best out of the hotel, not realising in his drunken state that it probably wasn’t the best of ideas.
“I said, ‘Why don’t we wheel him outside and leave him on the street?’ We pushed him through the hotel, all still with boxes on our heads, sniggering like children and shushing each other, so that we were making even more noise than normal while telling each other to quieten down,” Haskell continued.
“When we got him outside, I said, ‘Why don’t we push him down that hill?’ Our Lions hotel was right on top of a huge hill in Auckland that sloped down for miles to the sea.
“Without waiting for a response, I kicked the back of his bed and off he went. For the first 10 seconds or so, we all thought this was one of the funniest things we’d ever seen – Rory Best, a pale corpse, gently rolling down a hill in a hospital bed. People were literally on the floor, unable to breathe.
“But, quick as a flash, it turned into a scene from a Norman Wisdom film. As the hill became steeper, the bed picked up speed and panic set in.
“Now there were four or five of us chasing Rory in this bed, with beer boxes on our heads, shouting and screaming, as people in suits wandered past, on their way home from work.
“For a few moments, I thought we’d killed Rory Best, one of Ireland’s great rugby heroes, the pride of Ulster. But we – and, more importantly, Rory – were saved by a fortuitous bend in the road which sent him swerving into a bus stop, scattering commuters and depositing Rory onto the pavement.
“People were screaming because they thought he was a runaway corpse that had rolled out the back of some undertaker’s ambulance. Rory was just very confused.”
Absolutely brilliant and a great insight into the infamous shenanigans on Lions tours.