Monday 18 December 2017

'We want to win as much as England'

“Big games always require a massive physical effort obviously but it requires real, real mental strength because it’s going to come down to fine margins,” said Best. Photo: Sportsfile
“Big games always require a massive physical effort obviously but it requires real, real mental strength because it’s going to come down to fine margins,” said Best. Photo: Sportsfile

Ruiadhri O'Connor

Rory Best says his Ireland team won't be lacking for motivation as they look to finish a disappointing Six Nations campaign on a high by beating champions England today.

Eddie Jones' men arrived in Dublin yesterday chasing a second successive Grand Slam and a world record 19th win in a row, and while the Irish camp have been keen to downplay their role as party-poopers, they are intent on victory.

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Defeat to Wales last weekend ruled out Ireland's chances of winning the tournament and they risk finishing as low as fifth if they suffer defeat today.

Perhaps more importantly, if they lose and Wales beat France in Paris, then they will drop out of the top four in the world rankings and lose their top seeding in May's World Cup 2019 pool draw.

Ireland have not lost a Six Nations match at home under Joe Schmidt, and Best is keen to preserve that record at the Aviva Stadium this evening.

"Big games always require a massive physical effort obviously but it requires real, real mental strength because it's going to come down to fine margins," said Best.

"A lot of it is the team which makes the fewest mistakes will win. The team that have the mental fortitude and courage to go out and take those opportunities when they are there will also win so from that side of things it does take a massive one.

"They're playing for a Grand Slam, but we've got a home record we want to keep intact. We're back in front of our home fans.

"There has been a lot made about this game so there is pressure on from that side for us.

"Look, ultimately we want to finish with a massive result. I don't think that their want is any more than ours."

"We're well aware of what England are going for tomorrow, but for us it's St Paddy's weekend, we're at home and we have a very proud record at home as well, and we take huge confidence from that.

"We have focused on how to beat England, we haven't focused on the reasons why we'll beat them.

"We'll beat England because we're pulling on a green jersey, because we're at home and we expect probably a better, more consistent performance over the 80 minutes than we've delivered so far in this Championship."

The loss of Conor Murray is a major blow to Ireland's chances, with Connacht scrum-half Kieran Marmion making his first Six Nations start.

And the Ireland captain knows that the forwards have a role to play in making the step-up as comfortable as possible.

"It is a massive day for him," he said. "You just have to look at the way he's performing, not just last season, but this season for Connacht

"It is something he deserves. He is very unlucky he is behind a real world-class No 9.

"It is his day. We always talk that you get your opportunity along the line through someone else's misfortune. His opportunity has come now.

"I am pretty sure the half-backs will want the pack going forward.

“They will want quality ball. We need to produce that. We know Johnny (Sexton) can play, ideally off front foot ball. Johnny can play off anything.

“For Kieran in his first start in the Six Nations, it is important we give him a big armchair ride because it will make the job easier.

“Having said that, we’ve seen him play for Connacht off anything. We have a lot of confidence in his ability.

“Just to see him step up and do it at the next levels (against Wales last week) is reassuring.

We’ve seen him perform on the wing in the Autumn. It is nice to see him in his usual position at scrum-half. That’s why you build a squad. That’s why you have players there.

“He’s performing well in training this week. He performed well last week. We have no doubt he will perform well.”

Forwards coach Simon Easterby said that the world rankings points will not feature in the motivation of the players.

“It’s tight, it’s an old adage, when you think about getting the performance right, those other things that are inside our control,” he said.

“If we win the game, then we secure that spot, but certainly thinking about it will derail a bit of that focus and it’s important we don’t get distracted by that.

“Our focus all week, after the result in Wales, it’s certainly about improving areas we didn’t get right, and also backing up things we did do well. If we get distracted by what’s going on outside of that it’ll take away from our performance.”

Irish Independent

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