Thursday 29 September 2016

Ireland looking to test out Wales' scrum in Six Nations opener

Published 06/02/2016 | 06:21

Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek, pictured, has heaped the set-piece pressure back on Wales for Sunday's RBS 6 Nations opener in Dublin
Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek, pictured, has heaped the set-piece pressure back on Wales for Sunday's RBS 6 Nations opener in Dublin

Ireland will heap the pressure on Wales' rookie loosehead Rob Evans, to see if his scrummaging discipline "turns the other way" on Sunday, according to Greg Feek.

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Scrum coach Feek insisted Ireland are unfazed by Wales boss Warren Gatland freely admitting he selected three-cap Scarlets prop Evans ahead of 119-Test veteran Gethin Jenkins because of Jerome Garces' set-piece interpretations.

Gatland hailed Garces as one of the World Cup's best referees, well aware Ireland were frustrated with some of the Frenchman's scrum calls against both Italy and Argentina in the autumn's global showpiece.

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has already warned Garces not to carry any "preconceived ideas" into Dublin's RBS 6 Nations opener this weekend, but now Feek has ramped up the scrutiny on Wales' inexperienced prop Evans.

"I think if Warren comes out and says that, that's fine," said Feek, of Gatland admitting selecting Evans was to counteract referee Garces.

"I've had a look at Rob Evans, and there have been some games where he has been reasonably disciplined.

"But I watched the Northampton-Scarlets game, and there are some games where it turns the other way.

"On the day is exactly what Joe said, you've just got to take it on the day.

"And as long as the referee polices that, clear and obvious, then that's fine.

"If our guys are good and they are good then they don't have to sanction it.

"All we are wanting is the assistant referees and the referee to work together so that we can have a good contest.

"Statistically we're pretty happy with where we've been on our own ball.

"Teams are always going to try to pressure you, but World Rugby are trying to push that if you're going to contest the scrum it's got to be done legally.

"We're just wanting to do what World Rugby and the referees want, and that's what we've been trying to do for the last two, three years.

"Sometimes there are slightly different interpretations, but if that's what they're wanting, we're certainly trying to achieve that."

New captain Rory Best vowed to lead Ireland's mental approach in the absence of hugely-influential former skipper Paul O'Connell, now retired from Test rugby.

Ulster captain and Ireland's most-capped hooker, Best insisted Ireland can cope without a raft of injured frontline stars.

None of Ireland's provinces have qualified for the European Champions Cup quarter-finals, but Best argued that provincial form is no barometer for Test success.

The 33-year-old also set out his uncompromising leadership stall with a warning for Ireland's new and inexperience stars - hit the desired standard straight away, or face being shipped out.

"It's important for Irish rugby that the provinces go well but it doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with the success of the international team," said Best.

"When we met two weeks ago we were meeting a team and a squad that has high standards and expectations.

"The first thing that Joe (Schmidt) always says is that we take a glance back to go forward, but we don't stand and wait.

"If you can't keep up, we'll find someone who can.

"That's the level we drive to."

Best admitted the final 24 hours before a Test match leave rugby's top stars at once wishing the time away for kick-off, and yet itching to drink in all the colour.

"The hardest thing is just to make sure you enjoy the next 24 hours," said Best.

"It's almost the worst 24 hours because it takes so long, when you're in this environment, because all you want to do is play the game.

"But speaking to various people, like my brother, who've stopped playing, from the outside, the nerves, the butterflies, that's what you miss once you've retired.

"You miss this, the day before the international, being in the city, the build-up around it.

"To be involved in that and to be captain, it's important that you live the moment enough to enjoy this little window."

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