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Six Nations 2016 England v Ireland: Rory Best out to show McCloskey how it feels to beat English

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 27/02/2016

Leader: Rory Best during the Captain's Run at Twickenham yesterday
Leader: Rory Best during the Captain's Run at Twickenham yesterday

Ireland captain Rory Best is hoping to show Stuart McCloskey and Joe Schmidt's other debutants that there is no feeling in rugby like winning on the biggest stage.

The side the hooker leads out against England at Twickenham today (4.50pm kick-off) in a game Ireland must win to have any hope of resurrecting their Six Nations title defence has been given an injection of new blood with McCloskey and Josh van der Flier making their debuts while Ultan Dillane will hope to do likewise off the bench.

Given that CJ Stander will win just his third cap as Ireland's blindside flanker it's an, admittedly injury-enforced, overhaul that had some harking back this week to the 2000 campaign when then-coach Warren Gatland blooded five new caps against Scotland.

While Best, on the other side of the spectrum with the prospect of racking up his 100th appearence later this year, has told the newcomers to savour the moment, he says he wants nothing more than to see the youngsters mark the occasion with a first victory over England on their own patch since a Tommy Bowe-inspired win back in 2010.

"I think there is a bit of a buzz; it's a great thing," said Best who made his debut against the All Blacks back in 2005.

"With youth and a little bit of inexperience at this level, they have no fear. They just go out and play. They want the ball, they want to make tackles.

"That can be very much infectious and that's what we have to thrive on.

"Everyone tells you when you're winning your first cap, that period of time between the end of the Captain's Run and the start of the game will fly by.

"Whenever you're in that position, and it is a long time since I was but you still remember it, you think it drags on forever but it's only when you look back in hindsight you realise that it did go in a flash.

"That's what we'll be telling those boys, to enjoy those 24 hours as much as you can.

"We have a responsibility also as senior players and guys who have played 20, 30 times and some a lot more, that we produce a performance; that we show them that Test rugby is great but winning at Test level is probably the best experience you'll get in your career."

Best's maiden Six Nations as Ireland skipper following the retirement of Paul O'Connell has not gone according to plan as the back-to-back champions stuttered through a winless opening two rounds.

He says the key to victory will be to ensure confidence is maintained in a panel that have become unaccustomed to such results since Schmidt assumed the head coaching position in 2013.

"I think the big thing for us is to have the belief," he said.

"To have the belief that we can win and the courage to go out and do it.

"The courage to take yourself to places that aren't very comfortable to stay in and just be able to stay there longer than the opposition.

"In rugby you have all your tactics and everything and it's important to get all that right but rugby is a simple game.

"If you go to a fairly dark place and stay in there longer than the opposition, you're going to do pretty well."

Like Schmidt, Best had little interest in engaging in what he described as the "sideshow" of comments made by England coach Eddie Jones this week.

The Australian, who replaced Stuart Lancaster after guiding Japan to an eye-catching World Cup campaign, started the week by claiming Ireland kick away the majority of their possession before questioning the health of star out-half Johnny Sexton.

Having been stood down for 12 weeks in 2014 due to concussions, the Leinster number 10 has been the subject of much debate recently.

With Sexton having been taken off against France after a gruelling outing where he was targeted by Les Bleus, Ireland said he had suffered a whiplash-like injury.

Jones suggested the Dubliner's parents must surely be worried to see him straight back in the 10 jersey.

Sexton responded: "I've kind of been branded with it a little bit, because I've taken a break, but that was very much a precaution to prevent me having any problems."

Ulster's Andrew Trimble said he was sure Sexton would remain unaffected by the talk and, at his team announcement on Thursday, Schmidt said that getting caught up in a back-and-forth would be a waste of energy.

His captain was equally unwilling to become embroiled in anything resembling a war of words yesterday.

"We've enough going on with our own stuff," said Best.

"We didn't catch all of that and we're not that worried about that - we have to look after our own stuff.

"We have to make sure we are close to perfect as we can be, because that's where you need to be against England.

"Everything else, apart from the rugby for us, is a sideshow."

Belfast Telegraph

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