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'We would have expected to be in a better place after three games' - Rory Best

The Ireland captain wants to see his side focusing on the basics that have brought them success before.
Oct 4th 2019, 5:10 AM 5,596 4

AFTER THE UNCONVINCINGLY positive reviews last night at Kobe Misaki Stadium, there was no better man than Ireland captain Rory Best to deliver a more honest prognosis of where Joe Schmidt’s team stands this morning.

The 37-year-old is nothing if not honest.

While Best did also stress positives from Ireland’s point of view, he admitted that this World Cup has not exactly gone according to plan for this squad so far. A shock defeat to Japan and a laboured 35-0 win over Russia certainly weren’t on the cards after an impressive opening bonus-point victory over Scotland.

“We would have expected to be in a better place after three games,” said the Ulster man on Friday morning at Ireland’s team hotel in Kobe, just before they headed for a bullet train to their next base in Fukuoka.

peter-omahony-and-john-ryan-celebrate-after-the-game Ireland secured a bonus-point in a 35-0 win over Russia last night. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We would have expected to have won the three games but that hasn’t happened. It was important to get five points last night and now it’s important that we take a couple of days just to regenerate, to refresh everyone a little bit after what has been a fairly hectic schedule and a five-day turnaround.

“We will get stuck into the Samoa game on Monday and we’ll look at that week, we’ll make sure that we keep improving.

“We said that after the Scotland game and we didn’t do it against Japan, so it’s important that we keep taking steps forward.

“But ultimately where you want to be is knowing that a win, and a bonus-point win, will guarantee you a quarter-final place. That’s why we’re here – we’re here to play in the quarter-finals. We’ve made no secret of that and that’s where we’re at.”

In that sense, Ireland are well-positioned. As Best mentioned, a bonus-point win over Samoa in Fukuoka on Saturday 12 October would guarantee them a quarter-final place and even allow them to top Pool A depending on other results.

That said, Ireland’s performance levels will have to improve for the Samoa clash and any potential quarter-final if they are to avoid flying back home after yet another World Cup disappointment.

Best welcomed the “very, very rare” circumstances of Ireland having a full weekend off at a World Cup, with a nine-day turnaround before the Samoa game ensuring they can nail their preparation week starting on Monday.

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The hooker was very clear on what Ireland need to focus on again to improve their displays.

“For us, it’s basics,” said Best. “You look at that Japan game, we turned the ball over a bit too much, our breakdown wasn’t as effective as it normally is, and our pressure and territory game weren’t as strong.

rory-best-with-mark-mcdermott-ahead-of-the-game Best with Russia assistant coach Mark McDermott yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I think they were really good in the first quarter but, whatever happened, we just eased back on that. It’s mostly the unforced errors. 

“When we’re playing at our best… you’re never going to have a perfect game of rugby, as much as you strive and train to get it, you’re not going to have it… but what we did really well against Scotland was that when we made a mistake, we backed that up with something positive.

“With Japan, we allowed ourselves to make a couple of mistakes before we then tried to fight back, or we had one good moment and didn’t back it up with another good moment. They’re the basics of our game that when they go well, we go well.”

Though Ireland have appeared to be lacking in confidence in their last two games, seemingly contributing to that tendency of following one error with another, the captain insisted that there is still belief within the group, even if it has taken a wobble.

“When you lose a game – and it’s the same with every team I’ve been involved in – and you go from being supposedly contenders in the first game to useless in the second game, ultimately it’s always going to affect the confidence a little bit,” said Best.

“But I think we bounced back well and I think this group understands what we need to do to play well.

“We understand our core values and we know that we weren’t as good in those areas against Japan but, ultimately, you take a look back after the England [warm-up] game and that run of Wales, Wales, Scotland, where we felt in a good spot and we were improving in those three games.

“Sometimes you’ve got to just take it on the chin and think, ‘We didn’t play as well as we can, Japan played very well and put us under a bit of pressure and used their opportunities.’

“In terms of confidence in this group, I think we’re still very assured of what we’re capable of and how we get there.”

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Murray Kinsella

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