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Dylan Hartley tells story of Neil Best eating a live goldfish

Former Ireland international Neil Best once swallowed a live goldfish whole on a rowdy Christmas night out, according to Dylan Hartley.

The former England captain has fond memories of Best, who he played with at Northampton Saints for two seasons, but admitted that the Irishman could be a bit of a trouble-maker.

Hartley recalled the eventful Northampton Christmas party on the RugbyPass Offload show for which he had to apologise to several members of the local community.

“Like every good Irish person I know, [Neil Best] loves a drink. He is the life and soul of the party. We had a Christmas party a few years ago and something I learned as a captain is taking a team into public places is a no-no. It took me four, five years to work that out.

“I ended up having all team socials basically in the changing room because you put 40, 50 blokes together with a whole load of alcohol, all social norms go out the window.

“We hired a bus and did a pub crawl around Northampton, a double decker bus decorated in Christmas fancy dress and whatnot. We did the twelve pubs of Christmas and things started going missing from the pubs.

“The double decker bus started collecting everything from baubles to pool cues to clocks. We had Christmas trees, we were taking Christmas trees from pubs.

“I just want to say the worst thing about being captain as well is Sunday going around your community apologising and emotionally paying people off while all the boys are hungover in bed,” Hartley explained.

‘The fish was never seen again’

The former Northampton Saints captain was unable to right all the wrongs from the night before however, as one of the local pub’s pet was gone for good.

“This is one of those things about leadership that people don’t see, you have to go and do a clean-up job. During the course of the night full park benches got put onto the double decker bus, Christmas trees, a card reader machine, all these things were taken.

“But the one thing we couldn’t return the next day was a pub’s goldfish. Neil Best picked up the goldfish out of bowl, put it in his pint and downed it. The fish was never seen again.

“When we used to go out you’d get in a round and buy pints but [Best] would walk in and buy two bottles of vodka. He would keep the pourer on it and he would go around and just shove it in anyone’s mouth and say, ‘Sucky calf’.

“You’d have to drink from the bottle like a sucky calf. He basically got things going, but that fish story will live with me for a very long time,” Hartley said.

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