Sunday 17 November 2019

We are greedy and we want more - Best

Johnny Sexton, with the Triple Crown, and Rory Best, with the Six Nations trophy, celebrate in Twickenham yesterday. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Johnny Sexton, with the Triple Crown, and Rory Best, with the Six Nations trophy, celebrate in Twickenham yesterday. Photo: Gerry Mooney
David Kelly

David Kelly

Ireland captain Rory Best believes that the second-best side in the world are "greedy and competitive" as they aim to kick on from their Grand Slam triumph.

And now they will target even more honours in the years to come, with many supporters now eyeing a realistic assault on the World Cup, where Ireland have never made it to the last four.

In the short-term, Ireland will aim for a first series win in Australia in the professional era this summer, and a mouth-watering clash with New Zealand will take place in Dublin next November.

And, as Ireland prepares to welcome home their heroes to the Aviva Stadium this afternoon, Ulster hooker Best has vowed that the emerging young talents in this class if 2018 can propel his side to even greater heights.

"We're really, really happy with today," said Best. "We wanted to do a Grand Slam and we'll look beyond that at a later date. It all depends on how we kick on. When you look, especially at the younger players and the way they've fitted in, they want to get better, and as long as they keep that mentality. . .

"And the guys that are slightly older, if they keep that want, to keep going forward, that's all you can ask. We'll not know until our next go in a green jersey.

"But knowing the personalities in that changing room, this is what we wanted but we'll always want more because we're competitive and maybe a bit greedy."

Ireland finished the game with a three-quarter line speckled with youth, while a 21-year-old replacement locked the scrum in a squad brimming with players who have yet to taste defeat in the Six Nations.

"It's incredibly hard to predict," said Schmidt who, when assessing the future of a squad increasing in depth and lowering its average age, reminded us that the experienced spine remains key.

"They are growing and getting better and understanding more but there is still a long way to go for those players. And to be honest, we rely still on the same hub. Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton were immense, CJ and Peter O'Mahony were fantastic. Dan Leavy did a superb job.

"James Ryan is getting better all the time, and Iain Henderson is back man-handling people. Tadhg Furlong is still young for a tighthead, Andrew Porter coming on to lock the scrum at 21. Youthful enthusiasm is being tempered by the experienced guys who have been here before and that blend is working very well for us."

Best said his second Grand Slam success was even sweeter than that of 2009.

"For me personally, it's obviously a little more special. Not only starting every game but captaining the side. Every kid grows up dreaming of playing for Ireland.

"And when you play for Ireland, the next thing you want to do is to win something. And to win something as captain, in that special green jersey, is something dreams are made of.

"For me personally, it's up there as the biggest highlight of my career. And to do it with this bunch of players and coaches, it is really tight-knit. People always say that after wins but it is a really special and tight-knit bunch."

He pinpointed Sexton's dramatic drop-goal in Paris as the pivotal moment in the campaign.

"We knew that we had to target the first game and go from there. You look at the fine margins. On 75 minutes, having controlled a game we should have won, we are losing. Those are the little moments and it is reflective of the effort we put in, and getting that kick from Johnny, that we weren't going to let that moment go without getting any reward for it. That reward arrived this afternoon."

Schmidt, leading Ireland to their third title, also alluded to 'Le Drop' as the single symbolic representation of this squad.

"It's probably their resilience. I felt that we were really struggling in France in that last eight minutes when Teddy Thomas scored. That's tough when you've controlled the game and missed a kick to go 15-6 up to make the game safe.

"And suddenly you're 13-12 down. . . to show the steel that they did, to show the commitment and just plain ordinary rugby ability, to keep the ball, to connect up, to win ball in the air, and then the exceptional Johnny has to put the ball between the uprights, finished it off.

"As frustrating as it was when Wales got back close to us after we had a 14-point lead, again, it never really felt like we would give that up. For Jacob (Stockdale) to race away and score at the end, Jacob was totally in control of the edge of the defence. And today, that eight minutes after half-time sums up this team. Yes, they can put together some really good moments and score tries. We probably totalled more than we've ever scored in a Six Nations.

"They delivered on that side, but that pure resilience, that ability to get back up and get back in the defensive line to protect that try-line in the eight minutes after half-time, was exceptional."

For Jordan Larmour, yesterday was the stuff of dreams but you wouldn't have known it by his reaction afterwards. He is taking everything in his stride and given that he has never lost with Ireland, he expects to win every time he steps onto the pitch.

"Yeah, it's pretty special," he said. "I remember back to 2009 when I was at home watching the lads win the second Grand Slam. It's a pretty special feeling and to do it with this group of players is very special.

"It was very tough and physical, but having the likes of Garry Ringrose. . . when I went into 13 because I hadn't got that many reps at 13 during the week, but having him was a big help. It was a tough game."

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