Rory Best: We let our standards slip in training to accommodate new players
Ireland captain Rory Best believes a drop in training ground standards proved costly for Ireland as they missed out on a third successive Six Nations title this season.
Joe Schmidt's side are playing for third place today against Scotland after failing to win their first three games of the campaign.
Having lost Paul O'Connell to retirement and a number of players including Peter O'Mahony, Tommy Bowe and Iain Henderson to injury, the head coach was forced to call for reinforcements and has handed out five new caps during the tournament.
And Best, who makes his 50th successive Six Nations appearance today, believes that the squad allowed their standards drop as they tried to assimilate the new faces.
"There's a massive pressure that we maybe as a player group let off the hook for the first couple of weeks," he said after the Captain's Run at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. "It's not (usually) a case of we bring the standards down to accommodate the new people coming in, it's the standards are the standards, and everyone catches up and they catch up quickly or they get left behind and don't make the next squad.
"Looking back now, we probably let some of our standards (slip) in training; we let ourselves away because we wanted to build everyone's confidence up, because everyone was sort of talking us down. We maybe went a wee bit much (that way), instead of going 'look, if you don't catch up you're behind'.
"That's the environment we've created and that is very much why the young guys come in and the first thing they do is they spend a long time studying plays, where they need to be so that if something goes wrong they're not the ones who get it wrong.
"There's a lot around that, that's the sort of framework we play to, but there is also a lot around that that they're very good players.
"We have our starter-play but then it's about playing rugby. That's something that a lot of these kids have and it's something you probably can't teach that much, but you can see with the talent of the players that a lot of them possess that."
Best has backed Schmidt to continue beyond the end of his current contract in 2017 after the head coach revealed that he will consider his future next summer.
"Absolutely, from a player's point of view this coaching staff is one of the best I've ever worked with, and he's one of the best coaches I've worked with," he said. "It would be great to keep it together and keep pushing Ireland forward. Okay we're playing for third, but to have delivered two Championships in three years is not a bad return."