The Ireland touring party travelled down from Vancouver to San Francisco on Sunday, in advance of next weekend’s encounter with the Eddie O’Sullivan-coached US Eagles. Tour captain Rory Best gives us his thoughts on that game and what he made of the 25-6 win over Canada.
Saturday’s win over the Canadians saw Ireland run in tries through Barry Murphy, new cap Ian Whitten and Tony Buckley, gradually finding their rhythm after a sticky opening hour.
Eight players made their senior debuts, including 10-point out-half Ian Keatley who admitted afterwards: “I was delighted to get my first cap and with how the game went.
“Getting the man-of-the-match was just an added bonus.”
Commenting on his new number 10, Declan Kidney said: “Ian had a good game, we were very happy with him.
“Even in the last 10 minutes, you could see him growing in confidence. It can make a big difference in a player’s game when they get that confidence.”
Tour captain Rory Best agreed that first cap nerves, a short amount of preparation time and new combinations across the pitch all contributed to Ireland taking their time to click into match-winning gear.
“We came together a week ago so it wasn’t a bad starting point for us. Canada, as we expected, put in a very good display and we had to dig deep in the end,” Best explained.
“I think the performance was possibly a case of a new team together, a little bit of rustiness and boys trying to read each other.
“As well when you throw six new caps into the mix and the nerves with that, with Tom Court making his first start, Bob Casey his first appearance for nine years, there were always going to be a few nerves and a few mistakes early on.
“Definitely in the second half we were able to get a bit more continuity and we were able to play a bit and in the end that showed.
“At half-time the message from Declan was we had to up our game, try and cut out the mistakes and keep our discipline.
“From the players’ point of view we had to keep knocking on the door and eventually it would open.”
A key moment in the game arrived on the hour mark when Ireland were able to turn defence into attack and push through for Whitten’s try, after big Canadian winger DTH van der Merwe had almost engineered a score at the other end.
Best agreed: “Yeah, it was imporant, we were 13-6 ahead at that stage and they were looking like scoring and Gavin Duffy made a great tackle, got the turnover and we shifted it wide through the hands and got the score in the corner.
“It was great for young Ian Whitten to cap off his first appearance with a try.”
Thoughts turn now to next Sunday’s Setanta Challenge Cup match against the USA, with the fact that Eddie O’Sullivan is coaching the Eagles certain to add spice to the encounter.
O’Sullivan, of course, coached Ireland to three Triple Crowns in 2004, 2006 and 2007 and Best is looking forward to catching up with the man who gave him his senior debut against New Zealand back in 2005.
“For the boys in the changing room who have worked with Eddie, the likes of myself, it will be good to see him again.
“I haven’t seen him since he was in charge of the Ireland team. He gave me my chance so, like I said, it will be good to catch up with him.
“For us it will be another game. We have to up our performance and we will be looking to improve.”