Rory Best on retirement: 'It's important it doesn't affect match preparation'

Rory Best on retirement: 'It's important it doesn't affect match preparation'

There were tears on Thursday morning as Rory Best stepped off the Ireland team's training pitch at Carton House for the last time. Not his, though.

The Ireland skipper retires from rugby after the upcoming World Cup but he is sticking rigidly to the 'next game up' mantra – even if the visit of Wales to the Aviva Stadium this weekend will mark his last ever game of rugby at the Lansdowne Road venue.

And so it was a woman, one of those hardy regulars who hovers around the team base on match weeks in the Kildare venue regardless of hail, rain or shine, who informed him through leaking eyes, that he would never set foot on that particular patch of turf again.

“I hadn't really given that any thought because, for me, it is about focusing on the next game,” said the Ulsterman. “Look, when it comes to it after the (Wales) game the realisation of the last game at the Aviva might hit home properly but it is important for me and the team that that doesn't affect the preparation.

It will be a really big occasion when I look back upon it and I am sure the family will feel it a lot more than I do in the build up to the game. Ultimately, it is about making sure that as a team we perform and take a massive step forward, put ourselves in the best possible position as we get on that flight to Japan on Wednesday and Scotland becomes the next target.

Scotland. Yokohama. September 22nd. It is a game that has long been burned into the collective consciousness. Both Ireland and Wales have named teams that are close enough to full strength to make this one a more obvious barometer of their respective health, especially so since the respective managements have revealed their tournament squads of 31.

Ireland's was greeted with no little debate, the preference for the recently-qualified and capped Jean Kleyn over Devin Toner standing as the most disputed call made by Joe Schmidt. Nine players received bad news early last week but the upside to it all for Best is a sense of clarity as they approach the big kick-off.

“When you get down to that 31 it is funny how taking eight, nine, ten players out of it there is just so much more room and you can get into your smaller groups that bit easier.

“Ultimately, you know that, barring injuries on Saturday, it is the 31 players and the management that are going to take us to the World Cup and, with that, you get a bit of confidence and an extra spring in your step among the players there.

“It's a great time to be around the squad because you don't feel that sword hanging over your head anymore. You know that you are in and you can just role up the sleeves and get on with producing the best that we can this Saturday and two weeks on Sunday.”

That may be so but the omission of Toner, allied to the struggles of the lineout in Twickenham two weekends ago, will add to the pressure on them all to get that crucial setpiece right this Saturday and going forward.

Best struggled with his throwing that day against England and Schmidt has said that the responsibility for calling the lineout will be shared among the likes of James Ryan and Iain Henderson now that the experienced and capable Toner is no longer part of the unit.

The skipper knows this. There is always a sigh of relief when the first few throws from out of touch find their man. And he has seen how the failure to nail those first few, or the inability of players to hold on to passes in open play, can prompt a debilitating ripple through the side.

“That's only natural and it is important for us this weekend to get the first couple of lineout wins. Ultimately, if it doesn't go our way then we can't let it affect the rest of our game the way it did against England. Okay, we lost a few lineouts but you can repair them reasonably easy.

“The most disappointing thing was how we gave up the next moment after. (Maro) Itoje's try was probably the biggest example of that: we lost the lineout and then let them get the ball back, set a phase up and score relatively easy under the posts because we just weren't focused on trying to win that next moment and trying to get the upper hand back with our actions.”

Next action. Next game. Last home game? Just not important right now.


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