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Six Nations Rugby: Ireland hooker Rory Best on how to silence Wales

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Rory Best looked as white as a sheet as he removed his scrum-cap from his head and made his way to the touchline, expelled from battle just as things were heating up.

His yellow card did not ultimately cost his team against France, but he knew that Joe Schmidt's hair-drier would have him in its cross-hairs when the curtains were drawn for the video review.

Such things are certainties in the New Zealander's world - death, taxes and coolly-delivered deconstructions of where you went wrong.

Under Schmidt, Ireland have become Europe's most controlled team and Best's sin-binning was rare for a player in green.

They consistently end up on the right side of the penalty count, keeping their own end of the bargain tight while living off the errors of others.

At some stage, an opponent will surely figure out that keeping their discipline against Ireland could lead to great things, but no-one appears to have joined the dots.

"I suppose we like to think it's the pressure we're putting on teams, the way we prepare to give away less penalties," Best said. "We put a lot of emphasis on making sure we train as close to match intensity as we can get and if you're used to working in that then your decisions become a bit more automated.

"And if you can make the right decision automated then when the pressure comes on in a game, you're less likely to infringe."

The sin-bin takes the form of laps during Schmidt's training sessions at Carton House. If you overstep the mark during the team runs, you're out and around the pitch while someone takes your place.

That's why Best looked so forlorn as he made his way from the fray at the Aviva Stadium four weeks ago.

"There's an emphasis on discipline, when I picked up the yellow against France you were dreading the review post-match," he recalled. "Even though we've won, you still kind of feel that you've let people down.

"Obviously 14 against 15 is a big advantage. I suppose you redouble your efforts the next time to make sure you are more disciplined.

"A lot of the discipline is just being prepared. There are going to be a few penalties because you're playing quite close to the edge, but I think a lot of them are avoidable.

"And if you can be the team that doesn't give away a lot of penalties, then you're less likely to get the yellow cards."

Having conceded 37 penalties so far this Six Nations to Ireland's 26, Wales are fully aware of the need to tighten up their discipline.

Last season at the Aviva, they conceded 16 to Ireland's nine and were beaten out the gate by a more controlled Ireland side. Asked about their costly lack of composure in Dublin, Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards accepted that they need to tighten up.

"I couldn't agree more with what you were saying. It was something we did relatively well against France," he said.

"That is a big key, the halfway line battle throughout the Six Nations. It's pivotal in who comes out the victors."

The man in the middle is Wayne Barnes, who produced that yellow card for Best.

Ireland have enjoyed a mixed relationship with the English official who has taken charge of four meetings between these sides and is no stranger to controversy.

Best said: "He penalises if you infringe and if you infringe consistently he is not afraid to go to his pocket. If you get on the right side of him and play pro-actively he will reward you.

"He wants the game to flow as much as the rest of us and when it doesn't happen, sometimes you want to get down to the players who want to play rugby and if that means yellow cards, that means yellow cards."

If Barnes needs to keep his head, so do Ireland. The Millennium Stadium will be the most intimidating of the venues Schmidt's side have visited during their 10-match unbeaten run and it will present a different challenge.

"It's about making sure we're properly prepared because ultimately everything is a sideshow and it's 15 v 15, the crowd can give them momentum, can get on your back and make you do things you don't want to if you're not fully prepared," Best said.

"It's going to be an unbelievable atmosphere, an unbelievable occasion so it's about making sure we're prepared to win a rugby match."

Doing so would set up a tilt at a Grand Slam, but you won't hear those words uttered around the Irish camp.

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