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Best Ireland ready for England challenge

Fresh from leading Ireland to a convincing victory over Scotland, Ulster’s Rory Best anticipates further improvement against England at Twickenham

Best crosses over for Ireland's opening try against Scotland last week.
Best crosses over for Ireland's opening try against Scotland last week.
Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire/Press Association Images

BUOYED BY A comprehensive victory over a determined Scotland side at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday, Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best has spoken of his satisfaction with Ireland’s preparation ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations finale against England at Twickenham.

The Ulster man suggested yesterday that Stuart Lancaster’s men were more than worthy of a lofty place in the current world ranking.

“Everyone had written them off at the start,” he said. “They’ve had a couple of tough performances and good results to start, narrow wins. They’ve gone from strenght-to-strength; they look like they’re really trying for each other.

“There’s a lot of heart and spirit there, and couple with that, they’re a very physical side… You want to challenge yourself away from home against the top teams. As Deccie says, they’re fourth in the world and you don’t get to be fourth in the world without reason. They’re a quality side. It’s very much a challenge that we’re looking forward to.”

If Ireland are to leave Twickenham with a satisfying St. Patrick’s day victory, the achievement of parity at both scrum and lineout is likely to prove essential. Fortunately, they’re facets of the game in which Ireland have shown steady improvement of late, much to the captain’s obvious satisfaction.

“The scrum is something we’ve talked about a lot over the last 18 months, two years and how far it’s come, how we see ourselves as a force in there now. It was nice to see that stay there.

“The line-out is something, in the past, we pride ousrselves on. Probably through not having the numbers in the Championship, we’ve struggled to find our rhythm. It was nice to see it bounce back up. Obviously, there are areas to improve, but we were reasonably happy. It was great to see Ryan coming in and do such a great job running the lineout.”

Saturday will mark Ireland’s fourth competitive fixture in as many weeks. A gruelling schedule by the standards of Test rugby, the question of fatigue has dominated the majority of pre-match commentary.

Though mindful of the threat posed by physical and mental exhaustion, Best believes the squad capable of retaining a sense of focus.

“We know we have to take it another level. The championship’s nearly over for us. Sometimes these training weeks can be the hardest; you sort of have one eye on the last game – it’s the last game of the championship and everyone wants to play it. During training it’s easy to let the feeling that your body’s a little sore get in the way, but the hard training’s done and it’s just a matter of looking forward to it.

“It’s very exciting times, you know, to go to Twickenham. It’s one of the best venues there is. To go there for an away game and captain your country, it’s another proud day, but like I say, there’s a fantastic group of players around me I’m surrounded by great leaders. The way everyone grouped around and stood up on Saturday; we know we need to do the same again, but we also know we’re more than capable of giving a little bit more.”

Kick-off in the final match of this year’s Six Nations is scheduled for 1700.

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