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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 22 May, 2019
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'When you come off the pitch a bit battered and bruised, that’s always a good thing' -- Best

‘When you come off the pitch in the front five and you’re a bit battered and bruised that’s always a good thing.’

IRELAND CAPTAIN RORY Best was happier to have a body covered in bruises than a draw with Wales, but he was able to see the upside of both.

The hooker led Ireland into the Six Nations opener in the knowledge that Ireland’s only in-competition losses last year came thanks to slow starts and big early deficits against both Wales and Argentina in Cardiff.

Joe Schmidt with Rory Best Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

Thanks in no small part to a hungry defensive effort, it was Ireland who pulled into the early lead yesterday, though the skipper admits that the latter 50 minutes left something to be desired.

“One thing we talked about and wanted to concentrate on was our start. I think we started very, very well. The flip side of that is we’re obviously disappointed with the last 10 minutes of that half. We let them back in when we had a good firm hold of things.

“I think it’s a strange result, a draw nobody is overly happy with.

“But at 16-13, you look at the Welsh defence and we’re probably reasonably happy with the draw. I think for us it’s about concentrating on bits of the performance we’re very happy with and there are bits we know we can do a lot better with.”

That line prompted questions of an area that clearly led to Ireland’s loss of control. From 13 – 0 up to 13 -3 and then Wales were set up for a series of scrums on the Ireland five-metre line. Rob Evans went to work on Nathan White and got the benefit of the refereeing calls until the ball was spat out to Taulupe Faletau to spin over the try-line.

“It’s something we talked about at half-time,” Best explained, “we had to hit out, we had to get our right shoulder out just to stop them trying to slide round.

The balance in the first-half didn’t really help us. You have to keep working. We want to stay square and put a stable platform on there, we definitely got there in the second half but we’re disappointed we didn’t get enough opportunity to do that in the first half.”

‘Stable’ and ‘square’ are words that Irish front-rowers and scrum coach Greg Feek are keen to broadcast close to any fixture – just in case a referee happens to be tuning in – in attempt to create a contrast to scrummagers who are quick to slip off to an angle.

With Paris next on the itinerary, another Ireland’s pack have another hard day at the office in store when they go head-to-head with a traditional French strength with South Africa’s Jaco Peyper watching on.

“It’s one area of their game that, in club rugby and international rugby, (France) are particularly strong. There are probably areas of their scrum quite similar to Wales, they look for angles and they don’t necessarily always want that straight contest.

Jonathan Sexton and Rory Best Best has a word in Sexton's ear as the pair are replaced minutes before full-time. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“For us, there are aspects of that second-half that we’re happy with, but there’s no doubt that France are dangerous there. We’ll have to dissect that and make sure we have a good plan.”

While that plan is forming and Sean O’Brien and Tommy O’Donnell attempt to prove their fitness for Saturday, Best and the rest of the team will be icing wounds and bruises. That’s no bad thing, says the captain who claims to have had an easy task leading the defending champions out.

“The big thing for me was the senior players that we have in the squad and the way we shared that leadership, it takes a little pressure off,” Best said post-match.

As a forward it was a fairly enjoyable game to be a part of. I think when you come off the pitch in the front five and you’re a bit battered and bruised, that’s always a good thing.

“There’s no doubt we’re battered and bruised today. In terms of captaining, the boys makes it very easy, the coaching staff and everyone, we definitely share that responsibility and share it well.”

CJ Stander and the rest of The42′s Six Nations Team of the Week

Schmidt considering changes as Ireland look to build on solid foundation

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Sean Farrell

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