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Ulster's Rory Best believes Ireland can recover from Wallabies horror to stun Kiwis

Niall Crozier

Ulster's Rory Best is a proud professional player.

That being the case, the most capped hooker in the history of Irish rugby is smarting following Saturday's 32-15 defeat by Australia.

Next up? New Zealand. And in describing them, best is the adjective that springs to mind instantly. Apt. This will be a case of getting back into the metaphoric saddle at the risk of being thrown some distance.

The Ulster ace made his international debut against the All Blacks at Lansdowne Road in November 2005. Ireland lost 45-7.

On Sunday, Best will be lining out in the middle of the Irish front row for the 70th occasion. Yesterday afternoon at Carton House, the team's Co Kildare retreat, he appeared relaxed about the coming test. Surprisingly, perhaps, he has been able to take many positives from last weekend's defeat which many others felt had seen Ireland take a backward step.

"Mentally it's going to be a challenge," was his take on the job ahead.

"But I think when you look back and let the dust settle on that (Australia) game – and we've been through it – it was very frustrating because we created a lot.

"It's one of those where if you hadn't seen the game and hadn't seen the scoreline you would have looked and have seen Ireland conceded very few penalties and you'd have assumed that, at home, we would have won it because the one thing we pride ourselves on is our defensive ability.

"We don't concede many tries and we didn't concede many kickable penalties so you'd have assumed that we would have done well.

"It was just disappointing to concede four tries in the manner we did, so from that point of view we've had a look at it and a lot of the stuff that we did wrong on Saturday is very much fixable."

All very upbeat.

All of that said, he admitted there will be some trepidation about facing the world's best rugby team.

"We know there is a bit of fear because we know if we don't turn up against New Zealand and stand off against them then they have guys a lot more capable than Australia of running away for tries," he admitted.

"We need to bring a physicality that we probably haven't brought before in an Ireland shirt."

Asked if he felt Ireland had been victims of paying too much attention to detail – coach Joe Schmidt's favourite word – and thinking too much rather than doing what they should be doing, Best conceded it was a fair question.

"There could be an element of that," he admitted.

But he was quick to add that the players are adapting to the new regime.

"There is no doubt when we train, you can see it every time when we take the field that it's becoming more and more off the cuff.

"We're not pre-planning moves in meetings and then going out and running them.

"It's now off the cuff; he (Schmidt) is throwing a couple of moves at us and we're able to run them.

"It is going to take a little bit of time, but I think for this weekend that's got to be now doing our homework this afternoon and tomorrow so we come in again on Friday to train and it becomes second nature and then we can worry just about bringing a bit of emotion."

Highlighting the changes he has witnessed since making his bow eight years ago, he stressed: "Sometimes in an Ireland jersey – because we've got so much technically better – we forget that Ireland teams of the past were a lot based on physicality and emotion and sometimes you've just got to trust that you know the detail and go out and let a bit of emotion flow."

And despite Ireland never having beaten the All Blacks in 27 attempts and the fact that these Kiwis will create history if they win again this weekend, Best sees this as a chance to make a statement on the biggest stage.

"There is no doubt we're playing the top team in the world, 13 games unbeaten this year," he said.

"Now is the time; we've shown against Australia we can create opportunities, but it's time to go out and make a bit of a statement that we have top quality players within the provinces and in the European Cup who stand out head and shoulders against the best players and teams in Europe.

"It's now time that we bring that all together. The last two games – although the Australia game probably didn't feel like it, have brought things forward in terms of bringing that together and showing what the players in this country are capable of doing."

With centre Brian O'Driscoll, fly-half Jonny Sexton and full-back Rob Kearney all in a race to be fit, the job will not be any easier in any of that trio fail to make it.

"You're talking about world class players, guys who toured with the Lions last summer – Rob on his second tour, Drico on his fourth, Jonny obviously only on his first," Best said.

"But these are top quality players and while you need all top quality players playing, unfortunately rugby is a contact spot and injuries happen.

"There will be a lot of pressure if one, two or three of those guys mentioned don't make it, but at the same time international rugby is all about pressure and whoever copes with it best."

That word again.

Belfast Telegraph

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