Monday 5 December 2016

Chicago hope for Ireland

Skipper Best believes Schmidt factor can help his side upset All Blacks at Soldier Field

Published 05/11/2016 | 02:30

Johnny Sexton goes through his kicking practice routine during Ireland captain’s run at Solider Field yesterday ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Johnny Sexton goes through his kicking practice routine during Ireland captain’s run at Solider Field yesterday ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Rory Best believes his Ireland side can create history in Chicago tonight by beating the All Blacks for the first time. Ireland trained at Soldier Field yesterday morning and have no injury worries going into the game, and their captain said confidence levels are high as they prepare to face the world champions, who are on an 18-game winning-streak.

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The Ulster hooker reckons the presence of head coach Joe Schmidt in Ireland's corner could tip the balance and deliver a historic result.

Ireland's Rory Best during squad training. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland's Rory Best during squad training. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Tonight's game is the first of two meetings Ireland have with New Zealand this month as they look to end a 111-year run without a win in 28 attempts.

"We firmly believe in ourselves," said Best.

"We respect them - and you have to respect what they're doing, the way they're playing rugby and have been going about it - but we don't fear them.

"The way this Ireland team has been set up under Joe, we definitely feel we can beat anyone.

"Since I've come in under this I suppose 'golden generation' with Paulie (O'Connell) and Drico (Brian O'Driscoll) and Rog (Ronan O'Gara), a list of people, we never went into any game thinking that we were gong to lose; it was a different sort of mentality that we had, and this game is no different "

Steve Hansen's All Blacks have not lost since August 2015 and legendary former captain Richie McCaw believes that the pressure to keep winning is a risk factor for the current side.

"When you win time and again, that's the most dangerous time. It's easy to feel that it will be alright," he said.

"Unfortunately it's the toughest thing in sport, to keep backing up those performances.

"From just talking briefly with a couple of the coaches, they weren't particularly happy with the way everyone played in the last outing. Even though they beat the Wallabies, it was a hell of a match.

"And they've had a week off and they realise they need to refresh before this tour, so it will be really interesting to see how this goes this weekend.

"It's been a big year but they can't use any excuses for that."

Best said he won't address the history of this fixture or the last meeting between the sides when he addresses the squad ahead of the game.

"It's something that there's enough made of outside of our team environment to talk about history and it never happening," he said.

"For me it's all about our process and about where we're going and where we're looking to go.

"This is an opportunity against the best team in the world to show how far we've grown as a group, and not just this team.

"Since Joe first came in there's a lot of emphasis put on the bench and the guys that prepare that match-day squad. There's a lot of emphasis put on them to perform as a group and this is going to be an almighty test for it."

Irish Independent

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