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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Best Buoyed By Strong Scrummaging Display

Best Buoyed By Strong Scrummaging Display

One of the most improved facets of Ireland’s play in the past year has been the scrum, and the manner in which they outscrummaged both the USA and Australia in their opening Rugby World Cup matches has given the forwards added encouragement.

Rory Best, the man in the middle of the Irish front row in New Plymouth and Auckland, agrees that the scrum is now a source of strength for Declan Kidney’s side.

From that first devastating scrum against England last March through to the two which set up Ronan O’Gara’s clinching penalties against Australia last weekend, Ireland’s set piece game has been tightened up and enhanced.

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Benefiting from the influence of former All Black Greg Feek, who came on board last November, Best said: “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.

“Teams have got on top of us in the past and it is quite tiring mentally. When you concede a penalty at a scrum you feel drained.

“There’s no doubt that scrummaging performance took it out of Australia’s back five around the pitch. Because they’re such potent and destructive carriers we knew we needed to zap them a bit there.

“In the past we’ve been guilty of letting teams off the hook a bit in the scrum, but we were unrelenting and that’s something we must keep up.”

Head coach Kidney has spoken regularly about the importance of ‘building a squad’ to compete at the highest level, and some of the members of Ireland’s World Cup panel who are yet to taste action in New Zealand are expected to face Russia.

Asked about the challenges facing the squad this week, forwards coach Ger Smal explained: “There will definitely be some changes and the players who get the opportunity must take the momentum forward. So there’s a big responsibility on them as well.

“You can’t spend too long on the previous performance, it doesn’t mater whether you win or lose the game.

“In a World Cup you have to plan as best you can for the team you’re playing against, get that game over, enjoy it that evening but the next day it is onto the next game.

“It’s not on our minds at the moment, certainly not the coaches and I believe the players as well. There was a lot of urgency from the players (in training). A big thing has been made about their confidence and I think the players knew what they had.

“When they bring it out that was the type of performance (against Australia) you’ll see. So the challenge is just to do it more consistently.

“That’s a World Cup – you have to put the performances together, get continuity in performance and consistency,” added the South African.

‘Consistency’ has been a buzz word in the camp following the 15-6 victory over the Wallabies. Back in the winning groove, Best knows Ireland cannot afford to stumble against a Russian side that will be smarting from Tuesday’s 53-17 loss to Italy.

“The big pressure for us now is to show it consistently. It can’t be one big game followed by a couple of mediocre ones,” insisted the Poyntzpass man.

“From here on it must be big performance after big performance. It’s a short tournament and we must raise our game every time.

“It was great to get a win against Australia but now we must make sure it’s worth something come the end of the pool stages. Our belief was never in doubt, but it’s undeniable that beating Australia has given us a great chance to top this pool.

“It’s put it all in our hands and it’s up to us to take this chance. We need to be ruthless to enable us to kick on from here.”

Follow the Ireland team in New Zealand on www.twitter.com/irfurugby.