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'At a time Joe needed support, I felt I'd done the opposite. It was never my intention'

Rory Best has expressed his regret about comments he made in the wake of Ireland’s World Cup exit.

FORMER IRELAND CAPTAIN Rory Best has expressed his regret that comments he made in the wake of last year’s World Cup appeared to be laying blame at the feet of ex-head coach Joe Schmidt.

Ireland exited last year’s World Cup in Japan in disappointing fashion after a pool-stage defeat to the hosts and then a comprehensive quarter-final beating by New Zealand.

In December, just over a month after Ireland’s disappointing tournament, Best spoke about “too much detail and too much tension” within the Ireland camp and how a previous request from senior players not to have coach-led meetings in the 24 hours before games had been ignored on the morning of the New Zealand clash. 

joe-schmidt-and-rory-best-after-the-game Best and Schmidt had some very successful times together with Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Best also expressed the view that the Ireland team could possibly have been rotated for the clash with Japan, perhaps bringing in the likes of Dave Kilcoyne six days on from the opening win against Scotland.

Best also said at the time that “ultimately, me as captain, needs to take a fair bit of that responsibility” and “as a player group, we needed to be stronger in that space” but his comments were widely interpreted as the captain throwing his old boss under the bus.

Speaking yesterday ahead of the launch of his new book Rory Best: My Autobiography, the now-retired 37-year-old expressed his regret and frustration that it appeared as though he was having a cut at Schmidt, who wrote the foreword to the book.

“One of the first people I contacted was Joe, I was texting him because I was away at the Anthony Joshua fight over in Saudi Arabia when it all came out so I’m trying to text him and then eventually phoned him when I got home,” said Best yesterday.

“I was in Dublin in early January and I asked him to meet up and said, ‘I know the way my words were taken and I obviously said them but it’s not what I meant.’ I felt that at a time when he was getting a bit of stick, I should have been the one to stand up and say, ‘Look what we’ve done over his tenure.’

“Instead, it was one that it looked like I put the boot in and that frustrated me. I was maybe trying to say that I think it’s a shared responsibility.

“People want to write, who’s to blame? What went wrong? You can’t really do that. For me, it came down to one game against Japan and then we got on the wrong side of the draw. I know South Africa won it but I still think if you’d got us into a set-piece, tactical kicking game, arm wrestle, it would have suited us.

“That side of the draw, where South Africa and Wales were, probably suited us more. When England and New Zealand get going with their phase stuff, it’s very hard. Now if you get on top of them, you can win.

“When people are looking for what happened, I was trying to give my opinion on what might have made a difference. That’s not to say that at the time that I disagreed with what we’d done. There was a wee bit of hindsight and I was disappointed with myself that I allowed it to be quoted that way in terms of the way I said the words.

“Joe was comfortably my best coach and I wouldn’t have played on until I was 37 without the confidence he had in my ability and the stock he put in what I did and what was important to him. At a time when he needed support, I felt that I’d done the opposite. It was never my intention.”

joe-schmidt-and-rory-best-before-the-game Schmidt and Best at the World Cup. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Best also called Johnny Sexton and Andy Farrell, who are now the new Ireland captain and head coach, in the wake of his comments in December to explain himself.

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Best is annoyed at how his words came across and admits that he got it wrong in how he expressed his views about what potentially might have made Ireland better at the World Cup.

“Ultimately, I got it wrong a little bit in that I thought I had retired, it doesn’t necessarily matter,” said Best yesterday. “I can express what my opinion was and it would be written as such. I had feelings that maybe if we’d have done this or that in hindsight would it have made a difference.

“There was a bit where I said, ultimately, the Dave Kilcoyne and Cian Healy one, it might have made a difference but the flip side is that if we’d made that change and still lost.

“The message that probably didn’t get across was that I agreed with most things we were doing but you look at it in hindsight and think, ‘I wonder if.’ It probably wasn’t reported that way. Now I probably didn’t articulate it that well and there was a wee bit of that.

“Hopefully, the thing about the book is that it was already finished at that stage so it’s not like I’ve had to go and rewrite it so that people think our relationship [is strong].”

Rory Best will be signing copies of his new book – which is published in hardback by Hodder – in Easons on O’Connell St in Dublin on Saturday 7 March at 10am and Easons in Belfast on Sunday 8 March at 1.30pm.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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