herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Best is wary of the wizards of Oz

Schmidt waits on injuries to both O'Brien and Payne

Rory Best
Rory Best
Paddy Jackson and Garry Ringrose

Rory Best ain't no super-hero. The number of flash plays in his career could be counted on a fingerless hand.

"He is the guy who a lot of people don't notice," issued Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

"It is his clean-out numbers and his carries when there's nowhere to go. It's slow ball. It's a brick wall.

"Besty will put his hand up and he'll give you a nudge forward, so you can start constructing something.

"He's calm in the moments, when you need to be calm, when you need to get your heart-rate down and be accurate.

"But, when you need you heart-rate up and you need to be working, he can be leading there as well."

There you have it out of the mouth of the main man.

Rory Best will today become the fifth Irishman to wear 100 caps.

"Look, it means a whole lot," he said. "I sort of grew up in very much a rugby playing family. We came down to the old Lansdowne Road as a family to watch. We went up to the Ulster games as a family to watch.

Immersed

"I think to go from that and to be immersed in it so much, to then get the opportunity to put on the green jersey once was unbelievably special."

There was a pause for thought on the different route forced upon his brother Simon when an irregular heartbeat cut short his career in 2008.

"To do it alongside Simon at the time with all the family here and do have done it so many times since.

"Like every time, there is a slightly different feeling as you pull it on.

"I suppose, as you go through your career, you get slightly more grateful for every time you get to pull it on.

"I just have a massive amount of pride every time I pull on that jersey and to be asked last year to captain Ireland regularly is, look for me there is no greater honour."

The road hasn't always been smooth for the hooker from Banbridge.

He has taken his bumps against Scotland at Croke Park in 2010 and his bruises in front of a steam-rolling England scrum in 2012.

He has had to work hard to deal with the moments of doubt.

"Sometimes it is more apparent in an older player," said the 34 year-old.

"You've seen a lot of the scenarios. You know what's going to happen.

"I've played against Australia whenever they've beaten us and beaten us up.

"You know what's coming from there. You get that little bit of doubt. The big thing is you try not to show it too much and you deal with it in your own way.

"I think it was Declan Kidney I always heard congratulating the new caps. Then, he would come over to some of the older guys and say, 'they've no idea this is the easiest one they will play'. By and large, he's probably right."

There comes the time when the excitement of playing for your country is overtaken by the responsibility of leading it.

The late disruption caused by what were described by defence coach Andy Farrell as lower limb injuries to Seán O'Brien and Jared Payne could be nothing.

And it could be everything for Ireland.

Munster inside centre Rory Scannell has had little or no experience, even out at Carton House, to prepare for such a baptism of fire.

In the event of Payne missing out, Keith Earls has had experience at thirteen in what would be a brand new combination with Garry Ringrose with Simon Zebo coming onto the wing.

The experience of Peter O'Mahony and the energy of Josh van der Flier would compensate for the potential loss of O'Brien, even though the Tullow Tank is a special force.

Whatever the matter, Ireland will have to keep calm, composed and on point against the smart Australians. It is just as well their captain has shown them the way.

Ireland: R Kearney; A Trimble, J Payne, G Ringrose, K Earls; P Jackson, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt), T Furlong, I Henderson, D Toner, CJ Stander, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Australia: I Folau, D Haylett-Petty, T Kuridrani, R Hodge, H Speight, B Foley, W Genia; S Sio, S Moore, S Kepu, R Arnold, R Simmons, D Mumm, M Hooper, D Pocock.

Verdict: Ireland

Ireland v Australia, today (KO 5.30), live rtÉ 2/sky sports 2

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