“As the hill became steeper, the bed picked up speed and panic set in.”
Former England international James Haskell has recalled how a prank on Rory Best during the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour went badly wrong.
Lions tours are well-known for team bonding sessions which often involve plenty of alcohol.
After the Lions secured a series draw with the All Blacks in a dramatic third test which finished 15-15, Haskell recalls in his new book, ‘What A Flanker’, how a marathon drinking session led to Best being put in a hospital/physio bed.
“I knew there might be trouble ahead.”
“Rory (Best) and Iain Henderson were like Shrek and Donkey on that trip,” James Haskell wrote.
“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.
“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 8.30am to 10 o’clock at night, shooting the s***, crying with laughter and ploughing through more drinks than George Best on a good day.”
“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.
“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.
“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.”
“I thought we’d killed Rory Best.”
James Haskell then describes how the prank quickly got out of hand as Rory Best, in the bed, started to pick up speed while rolling down the hill.
“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.”