'I see absolutely no similarities to 2007' - Best keeping the faith in Ireland

The Ireland skipper says it’s important not to let negativity seep into the squad in Japan.

IRELAND CAPTAIN RORY Best has insisted that his team have learned from their shock defeat to Japan and that they will not peter out as the Irish side at the 2007 World Cup did.

Eddie O’Sullivan’s Ireland lost to Argentina and France 12 years ago, failing to progress from the pool stages, with Best part of that squad.

In Japan this year, Ireland followed up an impressive opening win over Scotland by losing to the hosts in a major upset and then securing an error-strewn bonus-point win over Russia.

rory-best-dejected-after-the-game Best is positive about Ireland's prospects. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

However, Ireland remain on track to reach the quarter-finals of this World Cup if they can beat Samoa next weekend in Fukuoka, meaning that Best sees no resemblance to what happened back in 2007.

“I think the big one we’re focusing on is the one where it’s alright saying that you’re building, but ultimately, we went into quarter-finals at the last two World Cups in a really, really good place,” said Best yesterday, as Ireland faced into a weekend off.

“We beat Australia in 2011, topped a group that nobody expected us to top and everyone was saying, ‘Who have we got in the semis?’ because we only had Wales in the quarters and then we got absolutely hammered.

“It was the same with Argentina in 2015: everyone thought the same thing and booked the flights for the semi-finals. But sport doesn’t work like that, a bit like we found out against Japan.

“We’re drawing on the positivity of having a lesson to learn in a World Cup.

“Every team has one at some point, we had ours in the second game. We need to make sure we’re better than that.

“Everyone really, really wants to reference back to 2007. But this is a completely different group of players, a completely different management, and I see absolutely no similarities to 2007, if ultimately that’s what you’re asking me.”

The 2007 campaign hadn’t been mentioned in any question to Best, but there have been comparisons made in some of the analysis of Ireland’s performances in Japan.

Their defeat to the hosts last weekend followed on from losses to England [twice] and Wales in 2019, with some concern that Joe Schmidt’s team have lost form at exactly the wrong time.

After a tough year so far in 2019, Best underlined that Ireland need to be at their very peak to beat the best sides in the world.

rory-best Best was honest in his assessment of Ireland. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

The hooker believes the win over Scotland “wasn’t far away” from being a memorably high watermark for this squad at the World Cup, but he knows that they need to be collectively excellent to compete in Japan.

“On 65 minutes [against Japan], we had that lineout, we were on their line and had we scored there and narrowly won the game, does it change the way you feel about the game? It shouldn’t, but it does.

“Are we more susceptible? I think that we possibly are. We’re under no illusions that genetically as a country we don’t have that many freaks. We have a lot of very, very talented rugby players but ultimately whenever we’re not quite right, I think there’s no point in us talking about our strength as a collective and doing our basics well and working for each other.

“Whenever you don’t quite get that and you’re relying on individual talent, we have a lot of individual talent but at the same time, we also know our strength is our collective and when that doesn’t function and you fall off by a couple of per cent, you’re going to be susceptible.

“I think we were under no illusions as to how good Japan were but also how frustrated we are to have lost that game.”

The Ireland captain stressed that Schmidt’s team had done their best to play in difficult conditions against Russia on Thursday night in Kobe, and he also noted that it’s important for himself and his team-mates not to let any negativity in the coverage of Schmidt’s squad seep into their environment.

“It’s very important that we stay positive and we keep going forward,” said Best.

“For us, we’ve got to try and take the positives. The great thing about this group is that we also look at the negatives. We looked at that against Japan and we said ‘look at the mistakes we made and look at the discipline’.

“Discipline is something that we really pride ourselves on and we just allowed Japan after that 20 minutes when we felt we were going well, we just allowed them to release the pressure a little bit.

rory-best-and-tadhg-furlong Best at Universal Studios during the week. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Then we allowed them access into the game and we allowed their confidence to grow, their crowd became a factor and then the more we did that, the more we started to play within ourselves.

“That’s disappointing and then you want to get out and have another go at it.

“I think with all the pressure surrounding it, the boys did well [against Russia]. We’re under no illusions that we’re not quite where we want to be but it’s not even two weeks ago that we felt we were in a really, really good space after the Scotland game.

“So we’re never as good as everyone thinks we are after games like that but we also know we’re never as bad as everyone says we are after the game with Japan.”

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