Best eager to end campaign on high
RORY BEST has challenged his Ireland colleagues to target a third-place finish in the Six Nations.
To achieve that goal they will need to finish the campaign on a high by beating an impressive Italian side in Rome on Saturday. England barely held on against the Italians at Twickenham on Sunday, and the Azzurri also beat France in their opener.
"You want to win every game when you wear an Ireland shirt and that is no different this weekend," said Best.
"This championship did not go the way we wanted it to. And we are certainly disappointed by that.
"We really believe that we are a better team than just the one win suggests. And the games we lost, we could and probably should have won.
"Certainly the Scotland game, we left a lot behind us that day. Now the emphasis is on coming out on the right side of the result on Saturday against Italy.
"It absolutely won't be easy. You saw how strongly they finished against England. That's the challenge facing us now."
Best insisted that the mood in the Ireland camp has been excellent throughout the tournament. The infusion of young blood has, the Ulster hooker revealed, helped keep the camp upbeat.
"We are enjoying being together and that has helped a lot," he said. "The injuries are the injuries and we haven't really looked at that.
"The way we are looking at it, as players, is how exciting it is to have a list as long as we have of injuries and still have some of the talent we have out on display.
"Some of them might only be 21, 22 but it doesn't really matter as far as we are concerned.
"We've kept it positive. It's not about who we're missing. It's about who is coming in to that slot and that's exciting.
"That sort of competition also keeps everyone who has been around for a few years on their toes, just looking at the quality young players that are coming through."
The enthusiasm of the younger players has also rubbed off on the veterans in the squad.
"These guys have come in and they've no preconceived ideas. They've no memories of poorer camps or when things weren't so enjoyable," said Best.
"That's invaluable to a squad because it overtakes the negative memories and pushes them away.
"It also helps that training is dynamic and everyone knows what they are supposed to do and the level is exactly where it should be."
Best also suggested that the players are absolutely accepting of the mistakes made in previous games and are determined to make up for those inaccuracies at the weekend.
"As a playing group we have set ourselves high standards and we didn't reach those against Scotland certainly," Best said.
"When we look back on the two games we lost, we know there were chances there for us and we didn't take them.
"That's something we've discussed. And we will look to apply those lessons against Italy this weekend."