Tuesday 22 October 2019

'He silenced a lot of his critics out there' - Iain Henderson hails Rory Best as focus turns to Japan clash

Scotland players congratulate Ireland's Rory Best after the Rugby World Cup 2019 Pool A clash in Yokohama. Photo: Reuters/Rebecca Naden
Scotland players congratulate Ireland's Rory Best after the Rugby World Cup 2019 Pool A clash in Yokohama. Photo: Reuters/Rebecca Naden

Jonathan Bradley

Iain Henderson hailed the impact of Ireland skipper Rory Best after the 37-year-old led his side to an emphatic World Cup victory over Scotland in Yokohama yesterday.

The 27-3 win to open their Pool A campaign came courtesy of three first-half tries with James Ryan, Tadhg Furlong and the captain himself getting over the whitewash.

Andrew Conway's score had things wrapped up before the hour mark, but Best still went the distance by playing the full 80 minutes.

Having been questioned and criticised throughout the summer - and called a "weakness" and "emotional selection" by former Scotland and Lions prop Peter Wright on BBC Scotland prior to kick-off - the hooker's showing will surely have been a source of great personal satisfaction.

"I think he had an absolutely sterling performance, he silenced a lot of his critics out there," said Henderson, his successor as Ulster captain.

"You (on the outside) don't understand what Rory Best brings to a squad and I think today people got a small insight into what he can add.

Ireland's Iain Henderson of Ireland is tackled by Scotland's Stuart McInally during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match in Yokohama, Japan. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ireland's Iain Henderson of Ireland is tackled by Scotland's Stuart McInally during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match in Yokohama, Japan. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"Obviously in World Cups, when you've a few injuries and not that many subs left, it's not ideal. People want to show they can play 80 minutes."

It wasn't just Best proving some doubters wrong.Ireland's World Cup preparation were heavily scrutinised during the summer, most notably after a humiliating day against England in Twickenham last month.

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Having put in their most complete performance for 18 months on the occasion of their first World Cup clash, and already able to have one eye on a likely quarter-final with South Africa, they must now feel they have timed their run to perfection.

"It was good to see the work from the couple weeks since the last game and the whole pre-season prep coming along nicely," Henderson said.

"Don't get me wrong, I still think there's a lot to work on but it was good to get that sort of performance and result first game up."

As a squad we knew that coming through the pre-season we had to build performance on performance and we've done that. England was obviously not ideal.

"The first Wales game was good, the second better, so we're building on that curve. We'll analyse that performance and try and get better."

Henderson himself was prominent throughout, creating Ireland's first score with a gallop through the Scottish rearguard and acting as primary line-out caller at a set-piece that, while not always challenged, claimed 12 from 12.

"For five minutes after it I wasn't feeling great," he laughed of his lengthy burst.

"When you see someone else doing that it gives a massive lift, it gets me excited. There was unbelievable support in the clear out and then James Ryan with the try.

"Not that we planned that but during the week there's a lot of emphasis on line-breaks and making sure we make the most of them."

Ireland will be on the move on Monday, switching from their Yokohama base before taking on hosts Japan in Shizuoka on Saturday.

"We all know what Japan have done to big teams, teams above them in the world rankings, at the World Cup before," warned Henderson, harking back to the Brave Blossoms shock victory over South Africa four years ago.

"We know (in their eyes) we're potentially a vulnerable target for them. We just have to concentrate and get our stuff right for next week.

"Pretty much everyone watched their game last week (against Russia) but we'll get a real chance to analyse it now.

"We need to put a massive emphasis on our recovery and make sure everyone gets over any niggles that they may have.

"The training, I'm sure we'll have a walk-through then only a couple of sessions so there's going to be a massive emphasis on getting your detail right off the pitch and not having to train to get it right."

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