Thursday 27 June 2019

Wake-up call for Ireland

McGrath signing might tempt Best to play on

Rory Best at the launch of Specsavers Audiologists’ ‘Don’t Suffer in Silence’ campaign, that encourages Irish adults to take a more proactive approach to their hearing health
Rory Best at the launch of Specsavers Audiologists’ ‘Don’t Suffer in Silence’ campaign, that encourages Irish adults to take a more proactive approach to their hearing health

It hasn't been a good start to 2019 for Rory Best.

He walked into a media event yesterday with a medical boot on his foot, at least consoled by the fact the scans have shown he may even be back for the PRO14 League final, should Ulster make it that far.

In the meantime, the Ireland captain will have time to mull over where it all went so horribly wrong in the Six Nations.

"Knowing our coaching staff, they will have gone through it forensically.

"They'll know exactly what they will want," he said.

"When we come together again, the expectation will be that we will have had a look at it and see did we do anything differently, did we prepare differently?

"Did we take our eyes off the ball? Were we looking at the World Cup?

"I have heard people reference back to 2007.

"The beauty of this time is that 07 happened at the World Cup.

"This has happened at the Six Nations before it.

"We've got that wake-up call to say, 'right, something went wrong.'

"There's no point in us going, 'didn't happen, we'll be fine in September."

It would be naive in the extreme to sweep it under one of those luxurious carpets out in Carton House.

"I think we will be fine in September because we will look back at that and see a couple of things.

"We can't start the tournament slowly and, also, we've got to find a way to get that real intensity back for 80 minutes, like we had before."

It was certainly there when Ulster almost caused a shock in the Champions Cup quarter-final.

In a mirror image of what England did to Ireland, Ulster won the physical battle against Leinster.

They just couldn't finish off what they started at the Aviva.

However, the signing of Jack McGrath could just be the tipping point in Best's decision on whether to play on with Ulster after the World Cup.


"That is something where Ulster in their signings potentially in the past fell down,

"It was all about the ability, not the person. That's changed.

Certainly, the coaching ticket of Dan McFarland, Jared Payne and Dwayne Peel have pushed the standards and the narrow defeat to Leinster in Europe has given the 36-year-old pause for thought.

"It's strange, some day you wake up and you go, 'No, that's it, I'll get to the World Cup and I've done enough',

"Then, we get to occasions like Saturday and you kind of go, this is a team that actually, for the first time in a long time at Ulster, seemed to rise to the big occasion and you want to be a part of that.

"And then the news of Jack signing, you know, to play alongside Jack at club level would be class.

"But ultimately I've got to weigh everything up and not just have a knee-jerk reaction."

The confirmation that McGrath will move north to join Rob Herring, Marty Moore and the improving Eric O'Sullivan bolsters the front five's capacity to go toe-to-toe in Europe.

When Joey Carbery turned down the IRFU's initial invitation to join Ulster, it didn't look too rosy as a destination for players.

The move of Jordi Murphy and now McGrath is changing that perception.

"I'm sure it was a really, really tough decision for Jack to leave the club that he grew up wanting to play for.

"I hope he took encouragement from the way that the likes of Marty and Jordi have settled in."

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