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Northampton confirm Best signing

Irland and Ulster flanker Neil Best
Ulster's Neil Best appears to be on his way to Northampton

Northampton have confirmed that Ulster's international flanker Neil Best has signed a two-year deal.

Big-hitting flanker Best's move to Franklin's Gardens is subject to a medical which should be a formality.

"I've played against English teams and I don't have any problem with people who are bigger than me running at me. I enjoy that!" said Best.

"The physical aspect will be different because it is so relentless but I'm looking forward to that."

Best said that he is hoping that the move will help ressurect his international career.

"The standard of the competition is a step up from the Magners League and this is the perfect time in my career to take it to the next level."

Best's Ulster colleague Justin Harrison is also poised to confirm his move to Premiership side Bath.

Paddy Wallace, Mark Bartholomeusz, Kieran Campbell and Matt McCullough are also believed to be in negotiations to move from Ulster.

The Best departure, so soon after Tommy Bowe's move to the Ospreys, is a massive blow to Ulster who had hoped to match the financial package offered by the Saints.

Best will join fellow ex-Ulster forwards Roger Wilson and Paul Shields at Franklin's Gardens.

The 28-year-old from Belfast is another crowd favourite in the mode of Bowe, who last week agreed to a move to the all-international set-up at the Ospreys.

Brought into the Ulster set up by Alan Solomons in 2002, Best soon made giant strides in his game, often living on the edge with his all-action style of play coupled with some massive hits.

Following a string of scintillating performances in Europe, Best was brought into the Ireland camp and made the first of his 18 appearances against the All Blacks at Lansdowne Road in 2005.

Former Wallaby lock Justin Harrison
Justin Harrison has agree a one-year deal with Bath

He was part of the Ireland's World Cup squad last summer but after mirroring Ulster's poor form this season, was one of the major omissions for the current Six Nations campaign.

New coach Matt Williams arrived to officially begin his reign at the weekend but will not be impressed by the latest defections.

He had originally told Harrison that the Australian was still very much part of his plans for the future.

However, the former Wallaby was approached by Bath and has had no further discussion with officials from Ulster Rugby.

Harrison was a key player when he arrived from Australia three seasons ago and helped guide them to Celtic League success, but he was subsequently dropped after former coach Mark McCall's departure in November.

Meanwhile, Wallace has interested a number of clubs in England and France, while Bartholomeusz is expected to move to Italy.

Campbell has options open in Ireland and in England.

see also
Ulster's Bowe signs for Ospreys
25 Jan 08 |  Ulster
McMillan poised for Ulster exit
19 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union

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