best: we can't slack off now
Hooker urges Ireland to deliver big performances consistently
IRELAND hooker Rory Best, who was at the heart of Ireland's dominating performance up front against Australia last Saturday, is demanding that the Irish pack recreate that effort time and again to maintain a significant World Cup run.
"From here on it must be big performance after big performance, no letting up," said Best, whose scrummaging strength was a key factor as Ireland built the platform to defeat Australia 15-6.
"It's a short tournament and we must raise our game every time now. The big pressure for us is to show it consistently. It can't be one big game followed by a couple of mediocre ones. That can't happen.
"There's no doubt when you look at the calibre of players we have, and you look at what we've achieved in the past, that we have big performances in us. There are times during training when we slack off a wee bit, we allow balls down and that goes unpunished. That simply must not happen.
"Last week we were a lot sharper and harder on each other in terms of eradication errors. That has to be the benchmark now."
Ireland will take the opportunity to rest key players against Russia in Rotorua on Saturday, and the likes of Paul O'Connell and Gordon D'Arcy will, in any case, need to rest hamstring strains, but if the squad is to maintain momentum there can be no easing up and lessening of intensity.
"It was great to get a win against Australia but now we must make sure it's worth something come the end of the group. We need to be ruthless and kick on from here," said Best.
The experienced hooker has been applying that same mental approach to Ireland's work at scrum time, the one part of Ireland's game that functioned consistently well during the run of four consecutive defeats during the Rugby World Cup warm-up tests against Scotland, France and England.
"In the past, we've been guilty of letting teams off the hook a bit in the scrum. But we were unrelenting against Australia and that's something we must keep up. We've strived to make the scrum a weapon. It's a good feeling to know that if we get it right, we can have a good day. We're starting to gain confidence in the scrum with every game that goes by.
"There's no doubt that scrummaging performance took it out of their back five around the pitch. The scrum is a head-on-head collision and if you get the upper hand in that arm wrestle ... teams have got on top of us in the past and it is tiring mentally. When you concede a penalty at a scrum you feel drained."
Ireland will finish a three-day mini break at Lake Taupo tomorrow before moving to Rotorua, with coach Declan Kidney not expected to name his team until Friday.