Sunday 22 April 2018

We know we can beat any team in the world on our day: Bullish Best backing Ireland to deliver big performance

Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Like his head coach yesterday, Rory Best has refused to get caught up in Steve Hansen’s suggestion that New Zealand go into tomorrow’s rematch against Ireland as underdogs.

Best brushed off Hansen’s suggestion and instead insisted that his players are focusing on themselves and not outside influences.

The Ulster hooker was speaking at the Aviva Stadium where the Ireland squad went through the captain’s run this morning and reported no fresh injury concerns.

Read more: Johnny Sexton or Beauden Barrett? - Some big names miss out in combined Ireland/All Blacks XV

Best became the first Ireland captain to lead the country to victory over the All Blacks in Chicago two weeks ago and he is aiming to make more history tomorrow evening by repeating the trick on Irish soil.

However, despite sealing the historic victory, Best is adamant that the mindset of the players has not changed in training this week.

“I don’t think anything changes for us,” Best said.

“We know they are the best team in the world and the reason they won 18 in-a-row up until two weeks ago is because they are a fantastic outfit.

“For us, we know that it is going to take a performance better than we delivered in Chicago and up there with some of the best performances that we have ever delivered in an Ireland shirt. That’s the reality of playing the best team in the world and back to back world champions.

“We know if we play well and perform to the best of ability 1-15, whatever 15 are on the pitch, that we can mix with anyone in the world. We have shown that time and time again. We have shown that against all the top nations.

“For us it is about making sure we deliver that. Even as a players to get that win two weeks ago was massive for us and it made history, but we were very quickly straight into the Canada game and then this week it is all about the New Zealand game.

“It will be something more so when we retire and we look back on being the first team to win. But I think that win two weeks ago does not change our mindset.

“We firmly believe when we prepare well and when we perform well that we can beat anyone. That has always been the case, even against the All Blacks before we actually beat them."

New Zealand have been boosted by the return of their first choice second-row pairing Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock and Best knows the added challenges that poses to Ireland at the set-piece.

“Obviously, they are two of the best players in the world,” he admitted.

“They're definitely two of the best second-rows in the world and I think their set-piece last time definitely missed them.

“Now they're back it will strengthen their set-piece but also put a lot of pressure on ours. We've got to get that right. The All Blacks really target the set-piece and they're probably going to be hurting a little bit from that, so they're going to come after us there.

“The same thing, we've prepared well to try to put the same pressure we did two weeks ago on their set-piece, but we've also got to make sure we, and we have, put pressure on our own set-piece and make sure we're as good as we were.

"It puts more pressure on because they are two of the best in the business, so for us it's a real challenge but one we're very much looking forward to.”

Best has felt the pain of losing as captain in the past but for Kieran Read, these last two weeks will have been an altogether new experience for him.

“My first loss as captain of Ireland was away in Twickenham and that was a really, really bad day for us. We got demolished at the scrum,” Best recalled.

“You do learn a lot from these sort of loses and you learn a lot about not just yourself but about your team and how they react to that.

“I’m sure he as captain will be looking for a big reaction from his players. I think they got that to a large extent in Rome and the way they went about their business and scored 68 points against Italy, which is no mean feat.

“Yeah, look, I’m sure it’s been a tough old two weeks for them and they will be looking forward to getting back on the pitch. But like I said, we can’t control how they are emotionally going to react.

“We can only control how we prepare to beat them again and that’s ultimately what’s in our hands and that is what we are concentrating on.”

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