Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Rory Best will roar again after recovering from All Blacks horror

Rory Best relays his optimism to the media yesterday ahead of Ireland's Six Nations campaign

The preparation has largely been done and while the media will swarm all over tomorrow's team announcement, for the players it will now just be a case of adding some final tweaks if required.

As Rory Best admits, after today's break all that will remain is the squad dotting the i's and crossing the t's ahead of Sunday's Six Nations opener with Scotland.

The Ulster hooker is, of course, a nailed on selection for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt's first Six Nations game in charge and, as one of the side's leadership contingent, Best is in a sound place to judge where things are at.

"We feel that we're in a fairly good position," he said regarding this week's preparation.

"And it's nice to be back involved with the squad and good that we're in a new campaign," Best added.

The hope is that Ireland will bring something close to the accuracy and dynamism which they showed throughout a sizeable part of last November's agonising defeat at the hands of the All Blacks, but, as Best admits, the squad have had to park that never to be forgotten game and focus on future challenges.

"At the Christmas camp we looked at the last three minutes of the New Zealand game," Best, who scored a try and broke his arm in that epic clash, stated.

"It was pretty disappointing to watch it but we've parked that now and we'll not take negatives from it, just positives."

And as for how he feels Ireland will do in this Six Nations – Brian O'Driscoll's last – Best wisely chooses diplomacy over any cast-iron predictions.

"It's the start of a new campaign for us," says the man who will earn his 71st cap in Sunday's clash.

"At this stage, every team feels that they can go on to win this championship and we're no different."

And as for the challenge the Scots, who named their side yesterday, will serve up, Best stated: "They've beaten us two or three times in the last four or five, so they've no fears coming here."

True, and, of course, the expectation of an opening win all rests on the home side.

Meanwhile, Conor Murray insists there is still a fierce battle for Ireland's scrum-half berth despite Eoin Reddan's calf strain.

Leinster half-back Reddan is rated "highly doubtful" for their championship opener against Scotland by team manager Michael Kearney.

Schmidt has recalled Leinster scrum-half Isaac Boss into his squad, and also has Connacht's Kieran Marmion available for selection if required.

Should Reddan fail to regain fitness in time, Murray will be expected to start on Sunday, but the Munster half-back rejected any notion of an easy passage into the number nine shirt.

Scotching talk Reddan's injury would clear the way for him to start, Murray said: "No definitely not, it's exactly the same pressure as before.

"Bossy's there and Kieran Marmion is knocking around as well, so to be honest I'm just trying to focus on my own game and making sure I'm as sharp as I can be so I'm ready to go if I get the nod.

"There are three or four players vying for each position, so I'm just trying to look after my own corner and make sure I can give everything I can."

Murray expects Scotland counterpart Greig Laidlaw to set the tempo for Scott Johnson's side in Dublin.

Admitting Ireland must find a way of shutting down the Edinburgh playmaker and goal-kicker, Murray said: "I rate him highly as a player.

"He's the focal point of their team, he drives a lot of their plays.

"I've played against him quite a bit against Edinburgh and a couple of times against Scotland.

"We'd like to think we know a bit about him but that doesn't make it any easier to stop him so we've got to be focused when up against him."

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