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'It's one of the best stadiums': Best and Ireland relishing Cardiff under Friday night lights

The Ireland captain says the squad are in a good place heading into tomorrow’s crunch Six Nations clash.

FRIDAY NIGHT UNDER the lights in Cardiff; it has all the ingredients to be a Six Nations classic and Rory Best believes Ireland will rise to the occasion tomorrow night.

Rory Best Best during today's captain's run in Cardiff. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A raucous atmosphere awaits at the Principality Stadium for a defining game in Ireland’s campaign; win and a mouthwatering championship decider against England in Dublin is in store. Lose and all those hopes get left behind this weekend.

The closed roof, the late kick off and a Welsh side hurting from defeat to Scotland last time out. Ireland know they’ll need to come out of the blocks quickly, and Best says the players are in a good place.

“We feel we’ve prepared very well and we’re in a good place,” the Ireland captain said at today’s pre-match press conference.

“When you come to Six Nations games and the last two weekends, there’s pressure on all sides and we know there’s pressure on us to keep that run of two wins going.

“We understand that if we don’t win, obviously the championship is dead for us, but at the same time we know that and the pressure that we feel on ourselves is what we put on each other and on ourselves.”

Ireland’s record in Cardiff is good having come away victorious in five of the last eight Six Nations visits to the Welsh capital.

“When you come here and you’re playing Wales, you now it’s going to be loud – regardless of the roof being open or closed. It’s going to be really, really loud,” Best continued.

“From an international point of view, it’s one of the best stadiums in the world to play in because the atmosphere is just electric. I’m sure on a Friday night it’s going to be as good if not better than anything we’ve experienced.

Rory Best Best speaking at today's press conference. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“For that, you’ve got to be prepared to know that if you feel like you’re shouting at team-mates in a normal game, you’re going to have to really scream at each other here because it’s going to be really hard to hear each other.

“At the same time, it’s a group that’s been together for a really long time, so you have to rely on a little bit of instinct, a little bit of reading each other, a little bit of knowing that with players and the mentality they have, knowing they’ll rise to a really tough occasion.”

And what an occasion it promises to be.

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While Ireland are looking to keep their championship hopes alive heading into the final weekend, Wales are out to atone for that bitterly disappointing defeat at Murrayfield. Rob Howley and his side are in desperate need of a performance and a result.

“I think it’s a very good Welsh side,” Best said of tomorrow’s opposition.

“I think when you look down the spine of the team, they’ve got some really quality players. You look at Ken Owens, Alun Wyn Jones, the back row – whichever three are on at any given time – their halfbacks are brilliant.

“It’s a real quality side. I suppose there is a lot of pressure on them because Wales are like Ireland in that they expect to win every game they’re playing. But look we’re under no illusions as regards the scale of the task ahead of us, it’s going to be really, really tough, because they’re a quality side.

“They’re a quality side and we know to come here and get a win tomorrow night would be a massive achievement for us.”

Colm Fitzpatrick, Laois and Donal Coughlan Colm Fitzpatrick and Donal Coughlan in Cardiff today ahead of the game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With so much on the line and no margin for error, does that make for extra nerves heading into the game?

“It’s hard to know if there’s extra nerves, there’s just so many nerves about,” Best added.

“This is the stage where all the training’s done, all the preparations are done and the build-up is part of the reason why you love playing international rugby, this next just over 24 hours when the nerves start to build and all the butterflies and the apprehension and also the excitement.

“So I wouldn’t say it’s any more nervous. We’re concentrating solely on this game and because it’s such a big game and we’re away from home and we know how tough it’s going to be, like Wales at home last year, two years ago here, that brings extra nerves itself.

“So I don’t think anyone’s looking any further down the line at the ramifications of anything other than us playing tomorrow to the best of our ability.”

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