Sunday 18 March 2018

'You're also in many ways facing the New Zealand public' - Rory Best

Ireland's Rory Best
Ireland's Rory Best
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Rory Best is looking forward to sharing Ireland's Chicago experience with his fellow Lions team-mates ahead of this summer's tour.

Best will join 10 other Irish in Warren Gatland's 41-man squad and says that the famous 40-29 victory over the All Blacks in Soldier Field last November will be a talking point when the squad meet up in training camp ahead of the tour which kicks off on June 3 with a match against New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.

Best did urge caution, however, insisting that the Lions will not only face a formidable All Blacks outfit, but also a passionate home crowd and he fully expects to be batting against all the elements in New Zealand. 

"I think you have got to look at that [Ireland's victory in Chicago], take a bit of that, we have to share our experience of that and the same with the English squad," said Best.

"I mean to go 18 games unbeaten is a fantastic achievement so there is little bits of that that we have to take and we've just got to get it altogether. As a squad we've just got to be... you don't have a lot of time to prepare for these things. You've got to be as tight knit as you can.

"You're not just facing all the provincial teams and then the All Blacks themselves and then the New Zealand Maori... you're also in many ways facing the New Zealand public who are so passionate about the game and right throughout every generation they know why the Lions are there and what they're coming for.

"They're not afraid to tell you that either.

"We've got to be prepared for that so we have to get together. We have to get together fast. It's a massive challenge, but you want to be involved at the pinnacle of your sport - which the Lions is - and you want to be involved in a really, really tough challenge."

While 11 Lions represents a good return for Ireland, there has been plenty of debate about the omissions with Simon Zebo, Garry Ringrose and Keith Earls among those to miss out on the initial 41.

Best feels that trio were unlucky not to get the nod from Gatland but says a lot can happen between now and the Lions' final game on July 8.

"I think it's a really strong squad," added Best, speaking at the launch of Glaxo Smith Klein's (GSK) campaign, Tackle Meningitis.

"There is obviously arguments for some people being left out but then whenever you count it and go well the guys that are in the squad there is some real talented players... from an Irish point of view Zebo, Ringrose and Keith Earls were probably unlucky but then you look at the guys that are in in their place.

"There is a long time between now and the 8th of July which is the last test and there will be injuries and there will be people who will get opportunities's important boys like Garry, Earsly, Donnacha Ryan that they don't lose faith, that they keep themselves in the right condition that when they get their chance they can step up.

"It's a really tough challenge picking a squad like that and for me it's a really strong squad."

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