Sunday 25 August 2019

Best bullish after England's joy of six teases limp Irish sides

Rory Best: 'Irish rugby probably suffered more injuries than anyone else during the World Cup'
Rory Best: 'Irish rugby probably suffered more injuries than anyone else during the World Cup'
David Kelly

David Kelly

It is rarely advisable to establish a trend from limited evidence.

Six English Premiership sides competed in the Champions Cup in round two - six won. Six Pro12 sides were in competition - six lost.

QED, then, for those who like leaping to enthusiastic conclusions.

If the numbers make for grim reading, the pictures were even less palatable. Saracens ground Ulster into the slush-strewn sod last Friday night, while Bath were superior to Leinster, a week after the latter's humiliating reverse to Wasps.

It is just three years since Leinster reached the zenith of their European expertise when producing the almost flawless destruction of the second best team in Europe that season, Ulster.

Those 2012 Twickenham final combatants meet this Friday in the RDS aware that each may merely be in Europe to fulfil fixtures beyond Christmas as the English, in particular, take control of their pools - Saracens and Wasps have already done numbers on the mighty Toulouse and Toulon.

The Irish provinces are attempting to convince all that there is no World Cup hangover; perhaps not, but there is certainly a pretty stinging headache.

"We're judging it on two very bad results for Irish provinces," said Ulster captain Rory Best in the aftermath of Ulster's 27-9 defeat at the Kingspan.

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"I don't think there's a shift of power but certainly I think from one-off games, for both provinces, were bitterly disappointing.

"The strength in Irish rugby is that you get back to your provinces and it means a lot more to play for your province than maybe some of the English teams that more freely move about.

"But it definitely didn't look like that against Saracens and last week as well from Leinster it didn't look like it, but I don't think there is a hangover.

"Irish rugby probably suffered more injuries than anyone else during the World Cup, and the Welsh regions are struggling a wee bit too, but I think for us, you know what to expect.

"We're used to going into Six Nations and coming back in and there's that expectation and pressure on you to fit back in.

We're used to doing that so I don't think there's a hangover, we just didn't perform to the level that we expect of ourselves and are capable of.

"Nobody likes to lose games, especially big games at home, but the good thing about having Leinster next week is that if we don't learn from that and do it quickly and produce a lot better performance, we'll be on the end of a beating like that."

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