IRELAND CAPTAIN RORY Best admits his side owe themselves and the supporters a performance at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow evening, maintaining that is the only motivation the team needs against history-chasing England.
After defeats to Scotland and Wales, there may be nothing more tangible than pride on the line for Joe Schmidt’s side on the final weekend of the championship but Best has called for an improved showing after a ‘very tough’ week.
England arrive in Dublin as Six Nations champions for the second consecutive year and can claim a record 19th straight Test victory and back-to-back Grand Slams by inflicting a third defeat on Ireland.
But Best insists that his side aren’t driven by the chance to stop Eddie Jones’ men from achieving that feat, instead focused on delivering a performance at home on St Patrick’s weekend.
“I think we take too much pride in our performance to worry [about stopping England],” he said at today’s pre-match press conference.
“We’re well aware of what England are going for tomorrow, but for us I suppose it’s St Paddy’s weekend, we’re at home and we have a very proud record at home as well, and we take huge confidence from that.
“So we have focused on how to beat England, we haven’t focused on the reasons why we’ll beat them.
“We’ll beat England because we’re pulling on a green jersey, because we’re at home and we expect probably a better, more consistent performance over the 80 minutes than we’ve delivered so far in this championship.
“I think against Italy and France, yeah we were pretty good, but we expect more than that, and that’s our motivation for this weekend. I think if we’re motivated by trying to stop other teams, that’s not the Ireland team that has set the standards and is currently sitting where we are in the world rankings.”
Forwards coach Simon Easterby delivered a clean bill of health after this morning’s Captain’s Run at the Aviva Stadium, with all 23 players coming through unscathed ahead of tomorrow’s tea-time kick off [KO 5pm].
Schmidt has made three changes, two of which are enforced, to his XV for the final game of the campaign, with Conor Murray and Rob Kearney dropping out through injury.
The big talking point has been the omission of the previously ever-present Devin Toner, with Best backing Ulster team-mate Iain Henderson to step up and justify his inclusion in the second row.
On the build-up to tomorrow’s game following the loss in Cardiff, Best conceded that the players have felt a bit sorry for themselves.
“It’s been very tough,” he said. “After any loss it’s always hard because boys do feel a bit sorry for themselves. You do dwell on the mistakes and the what ifs and what you could have done differently to affect the result.
“The only big difference this week was the scale of the task we have tomorrow. Very quickly we knew we had to turn the page and improve our performance from last week.
“England are coming here off the back of 18 in a row, looking for back-to-back Grand Slams, so that is a quality side and if you’re not prepared and ready to play a quality side you’re going to have a very tough day.
“We’ve known that from the start of the week and we’ve prepared, so in that way, I suppose the latter part of the week has been reasonably easy to get boys up for it but the early part was very tough because we wanted to have something on the line tomorrow.”
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