Saturday 14 December 2019

Australia perfect gauge of our progress - says Best

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt during a press conference ahead of their side's Guinness Series match against Australia on Saturday (Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE)
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt during a press conference ahead of their side's Guinness Series match against Australia on Saturday (Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE)
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

As Rory Best points out, the arrival of Australia to Lansdowne Road tomorrow afternoon is the best yardstick yet of Ireland's progression under Joe Schmidt.

Sure, there has been much made of Ireland's ascension into third place in the world but this is the first time Schmidt's side have faced the same opponents twice.

And after the defeat of 12 months ago, the Aussies provide the perfect sounding board for Ireland as they ramp up their preparations for next year's Six Nations and World Cup campaigns.

"Yeah I think we do," Best replied, when asked if Ireland have a point to prove against the Aussies.

"We definitely got beaten up right across the board and when you're on the back foot against a team like Australia, with the pace they have and how clinical they are right across the team - their forwards handle as well as their backs - when you give them front-foot ball they're so lethal and last year just proved that.

"We're coming up against the first team under Joe that we've played twice, so it'll be a good marker of how far we've come.

"Let's see if we can back that up with three in a row."

Best's inclusion from the start means Ireland have gone with three different hookers in the Guinness series.

However, they will be without Chris Henry for the clash following his health scare.

Schmidt was hopeful yesterday that the Ulster flanker could be back in time for the Six Nations while Best reported his provincial colleague was in good form.

"They're dealing with it as a family. He's back up at home so he's getting a lot of support from Ulster," said Best.

"He's glad that, in terms of it happening, it couldn't have happened in a better place. Within 90 seconds to two minutes a physio was in. Within three minutes a doctor was in."

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