Saturday 25 February 2017

Best wants to lift the gloom in Ireland

Rory Best has urged his Ireland team-mates to lift the nation by defeating New Zealand for the first time.

Ireland has been hit hard by the global recession with the government locked in talks over the possibility of a bail-out by the European Union.

The mood is grim but Best hopes the nation's rugby team can provide some temporary relief from the economic crisis by humbling the All Blacks tomorrow.

"I think a win would boost the country," said the Ulster hooker.

"Doing something that has never been done before would give everyone a big lift throughout the island.

"When we did the Grand Slam a couple of years ago, it was a big lift and this is an equally big challenge for us.

"The people of Ireland love to see a national team doing well, they love to get behind it.

"We are very hopeful we can get a result that will lift everyone tomorrow."

So far this autumn Ireland have done little to ease the gloom with two poor performances against South Africa and Samoa.

A further shadow has been cast by the team's homecoming to the redeveloped Lansdowne Road being greeted with indifference by hard-up supporters.

A bigger crowd than the 35,515 who turned out to watch the South Africa clash is hoped for and Best admits the team need their fans.

"There's no doubt we need that crowd support and there's no doubt we will get it, regardless of numbers of bums on seats," he said.

"There's still that passionate crowd that really only Ireland can produce. They are there through thick and thin.

"Hopefully tomorrow we'll fill the place and give the supporters something to get behind."

Even at 7/1 Ireland have attracted little interest at the bookies but Best believes a special performance is brewing.

"New Zealand are the best team in the world. To beat the best, you have to be somewhere near your best on the day," he said.

"We know that and we will be looking for big improvements. There is that desire to have a performance this autumn.

"We have a lot of belief in ourselves. We've looked long and hard at ourselves over the last two games."

Press Association

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