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Irish must be at their Best

QUESTION: "Do you feel unfulfilled since (Grand Slam) 2009?"

Answer: "Probably, on the whole, yes."

Hooker Rory Best was not in the mood to trot out the trite excuses that have populated Ireland's last three Six Nations.

"We've shown in bits and pieces that we are still a top side. We probably have to get that consistency. We have five big games now to do it.

"I suppose we have flattered to deceive in the last number of competitions. These are not the standards we play and live by in our provinces. There is no doubt there is unfulfilled potential there.

"As a player group we want to win this Six Nations because, as a player group, we are all very tight, we're all ambitious and we want to win things."

Ireland's Best, Cian Healy and Mike Ross will engage in a battle within a war with Wales' Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones.

For Best and Healy, there is the solid prospect of replacing Rees and Jenkins as Test players for the British & Irish Lions in June.

The possibility of this happening is very much determined by skirmishes such as this where Warren Gatland will have his eyes trained on all candidates.

"They are a cracking front row trio and it is a good bit of pressure on us to come up against them and show what we're worth," said Best.

"Myself, Cian and Mike have played together now for a fair few Tests. We know each other well. It is a very exciting challenge.

"They've picked the last Lions front row. They are three quality players. It will be a good test of our mettle on Saturday."

While Wales might go after Ireland's scrum, the lineout could be a cause for concern for the home nation.


Andrew Coombs will make his debut at 28. Ian Evans will be there with him.

Perhaps this is why Aaron Shingler has been inserted at six instead of going for two opensides in captain Sam Warburton and the majestic Justin Tipuric.

"From a lineout point of view, we have done a lot of work.

"Donnacha Ryan has really stepped into that void that Paulie (O'Connell), through his injury, has left over the last number of games," said Best.

"He's got a fantastic work ethic in terms of off the pitch getting things right. He's very calm on the pitch. I think that has shown in the way the Ireland lineout is run.

"Personally, it is great to work with him. We had a great relationship on the summer tour and the last Six Nations when Paulie got injured. Hopefully, it will be the same on Saturday.

The drip-feed of contract announcements in the last two weeks could have become a distraction. They haven't.

Best has seen them as a useful tool in the 'slagging' that comes when a large group of friends gather.

Anyway, Jonathan Sexton, for one, can 'afford' to smile about the sledging that comes his way.