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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019
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Confrontation is what rugby is all about - Rory Best relishing Italian slog

The Ulster hooker feels Italy had a stranglehold on England’s scrum at Twickenham last week.

Rory Best adjusts his headgear at the weekend.
Rory Best adjusts his headgear at the weekend.
Image: ©INPHO/Colm O'Neill

RORY BEST SAT alongside Ireland manager Mick Kearney earlier in the week and studied his hands as the names of eight injured players were called out.

The Ulster hooker has only missed 16 minutes of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign and 10 of them were due to a trip to the sin bin against Wales.

“I was feeling a bit stiff and sore until I heard that injury list,” he remarked. “Now I’m feeling a whole lot better.”

In the weekend draw with France, Best had a happier time at lineouts than he did against Scotland at Murrayfield and was part of an effective mauling unit. Scrummaging let Ireland down at crucial times, however, and he concedes “frustration” at two calls against the side for early engagements.

Best added, “As a general step forward, when you look at the weather conditions being similar to that of the England, we played infinitely better.

“We controlled the whole game better, for the large part. In the second-half, there were parts we weren’t happy with.”

Bells tolling in Rome

Italy may have lost three games since they opened their championships with a home win over France but they have proved to be a team of higher standards and lofty ambitions. They will be targeting two points against a battle-weary Irish side.

Best said, “We all watched the Italy game and are under no illusions, especially with how they’ve played all championship. It really rammed it home, how tough the task will be this Saturday.

“It’ll be a physical battle but there aren’t many games at this level that are not battles. That France game was up there with the most physical I have played in and Italy won’t be much different. As a forward, though, that is what you play for.” He added:

Some of us were moved [to the pack] at a younger age because of a lack of ability but we all like to get stuck in. The confrontation, for the forward, is what rugby is all about.”

The scrum, Best feels, may prove to be the winning and losing of Saturday’s match-up. He notes the “stranglehold” the Italians inflicted on England in their despairing 18-11 loss at Twickenham.

“The beauty of the Rabo Pro12 is that we play the Italian teams regularly and you know how much emphasis they place on the scrum,” he said.

“Our scrum has been a bit inconsistent this year and we know that Italian scrum is a big weapon for them. If we can come out on top it will go a long way towards deciding the result.

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Patrick McCarry

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