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Rugby World Cup: Rory Best urges team to step up after loss of captain

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 12/10/2015

Iain Henderson of Ireland and Devin Toner celebrate
Iain Henderson of Ireland and Devin Toner celebrate

Ulster's Iain Henderson insists he will be his own man, not the new Paul O’Connell, as he prepares to step in for the injured Ireland captain in next Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final against Argentina, back in Cardiff.

O’Connell’s World Cup and Test career look to be over as the most serious casualty of a litany of Irish injuries in yesterday’s pool-clinching  24-9 victory over France at the Millenuim stadium.

 O’Connell, who moves to Toulon after the tournament, quitting international rugby, injured a hamstring. Jonathan Sexton and Peter O’Mahoney also went off but are less serious doubts for the Argentina game.

Rising star Henderson replaced O’Connell yesterday, and is sure to start back in Cardiff next weekend regardless, but stressed  he will be looking to put his own mark on proceedings.

“I’m trying to create something of my own rather than just stepping in and doing something that someone else did,” he said.

Henderson's Ulster team-mate Rory Best called on Ireland's senior players to fill the leadership void left by injury to their iconic skipper.

"We're going to have to step up and give it a little bit more," he said.

Head coach Joe Schmidt was downcast in his post-match news conference when discussing the injury picked up by O'Connell in the first-half of the win with Best admitting it will be hard to replace their leader should he fail to recover.

"We'll wait and see what scans bring but if he is out of the tournament then obviously it's a huge loss," said the hooker, again superb yesterday.

"He spoke so well, not only all week but before the game.

"How much it should mean, knowing your role and knowing your plays isn't enough to beat a team like France.

"It's got to mean more, it's got to about commitment and passion.

"That's obviously a massive loss but it is what it is.

"He'll be looking us to push on and move on without him if we have to.

"Jamie stepped up at half-time, he's captained Leinster a lot of times, he's captained Ireland a lot of times.

"He knows the score and he's a brilliant player who leadership brings the best out of the team anyway.

"It's I suppose a bit of a burden we all share when Paulie is there anyway but we're going to have to step up and give it a little bit more."

With Sexton and O'Mahony also injured, and Sean O'Brien facing possible sanction for allegedly striking an opponent, Best says the squad must prove their depth.

"I don't know how many times over the last two odd years we've talked about squad, the bench coming on makes a big difference to us," he said.

"Obviously you don't like to lose players but a lot of people wrote Wales off whenever they got injuries.

"The reason you build a squad, and the reason you blood people, is for this.

"We're not stupid, we know that we're not going to go through a tournament without injuries.

"We'll address what it is whenever we know the scans but it's definitely a lot more sweet than anything else."

Belfast Telegraph

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