Tuesday 22 October 2019

Best makes case for his inclusion as Read says All Blacks need best game of the year

Ireland captain Rory Best
Ireland captain Rory Best

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Ireland captain Rory Best launched a strong defence of his own selection on the eve of one of the biggest games of his storied career.

The Ulsterman has come under scrutiny following a muted performance against Argentina last week, but he is adamant he is still contributing strongly to the team effort and has the trust of coach Joe Schmidt.

Ireland suffered another injury blow when Dan Leavy was ruled out of the game. Having sat out training on Thursday with what Schmidt described as "full body soreness", he was not present at the Captain's Run session at the Aviva Stadium.

No further clarity was provided by the IRFU who cited GDPR as a reason for not disclosing the nature of the issue as Josh van der Flier comes into the team, with Jordi Murphy on the bench.

Best will lead the side in front of a full house and backed himself to deliver.

"You are always looking for improvement," he said.

"I hold myself to account in the lineout, regardless. We looked through it and there were a few that couldn't have been thrown any better and we still lost. You still feel those.

"That sort of shatters your thought and your game a little bit.

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"It would be ridiculous for me to go, 'I didn't get any clean line-breaks. It must have been a bad game.' My game is about the breakdown.

"It is about making sure that we get quick ball. It is about making sure that the likes of last week, (Agustin) Creevy, (Pablo) Matera, their dangerous back-rowers, don't get turnovers.

Conditioning "Obviously, I didn't have as many big impacts on the game as I would have liked but at the same time when you haven't played an international since March you always worry about your conditioning and the speed of the game. That didn't pass me by and you want the lineout to be better.

"The scrum did well, so you want the restarts to do better whenever it comes over on your side and you're part of that lift.

"There's always areas to get better but I think that you're dealing with one of, if not the best coach in the world and if he has faith in you, you've got to take a bit of confidence from that as well."

New Zealand have won 11 of their 12 Test matches this season, but captain Kieran Read says they will need their best performance of the year to beat the European champions tonight.

"We're going to need the best performance of our season, I think, the way the Irish have been playing," he said. "I know we've prepared as well as we can physically, and the guys are looking forward to it, mate. We're going to go out there and give it our all.

"'The Irish are undoubtedly the best side up here (in the northern hemisphere) at the moment, so to challenge ourselves in their conditions is an exciting one for us.

"We're in a good space mentally so it's about being ready physically to get the job done.

"Ireland are a very structured side. In terms of how they hold onto the ball, they're the best probably of the tier-one nations in the world.

"They also have the ability to defend pretty strongly as well. They're a pretty good side.

"It's been (circled) on the calendar for a while, I guess 12 months.

"I'm sure there'll be a lot of emotion, a lot of heat out here, which is what you want to see when two big teams come up against each other.

"I think it'll be an awesome Test match, and that's what I'm looking forward to."

Meanwhile, Munster have announced that former All Black Alby Mathewson has extended his stay at the province until March.

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