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Rugby World Cup: Whole squad must be at their best to stand a chance says Ulster hooker

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 21/09/2015

Freak power: Iain Henderson, who scored Ireland’s second try, barges through another Canada tackle
Freak power: Iain Henderson, who scored Ireland’s second try, barges through another Canada tackle

Having dispensed with Canada to begin their World Cup on Saturday, Rory Best has said that Ireland must show they have the squad depth to be tournament contenders when taking on Romania this weekend.

The Ulster skipper featured for the first hour of the seven-try romp against the Canucks but, with some front-liners expected to be wrapped in cotton wool for the next week, he stressed that it takes all 31 men in the squad to ensure a successful campaign.

"It's something we've talked about, nobody wins a world cup with 15 players," he said.

"It's important, not just the 23 but the 31. You saw today, we stagnated a bit in the second-half, we emptied the bench and finished really strong."

Recalling the impact of Stephen Donald in 2011, the out-half who kicked the game-winning penalty for the All Blacks in the final only after receiving an injury-enforced SOS from Graham Henry, Best said: "For us, it was something we talked about even in the camps that, when you look back to four years ago, I think it was New Zealand's third or fourth choice out-half that kicked the winning penalty.

"Everyone's got to be ready, whoever is named against Romania. We know what it's going to take, unfortunately it might even be more than 31, in a competition of this magnitude you tend to pick up a few injuries.

"We've been lucky today but there's a lot of faith in the squad that whoever comes in will be as prepared as the guys who came out today and the emphasis is on the guys who weren't picked to be as prepared."

Entering the tournament on the back of defeats to Wales and England, Best was especially pleased to see his side start their campaign on the front foot.

"We're very happy with the result, to get the bonus point and the win," he said.

"It was definitely a lot tougher than the scoreline suggested.

"In terms of a start we're very happy. There's a few things we've been working on the last couple of weeks since the two losses.

"A few of those came off, a few of them Joe will probably be a bit annoyed with, as he always is, but I think it's a good start and we're very happy with it.

"The warm-up games are always difficult but we said a couple of weeks ago that we expect to win them and we want to win them.

"It didn't go that way but this is the World Cup. We know it comes around every four years and you only get one shot at it.

"It's important that we started well and laid down a marker but at the same time we're under no illusions that we have to keep getting better every game."

One man who is certainly improving with each 80 minutes is Best's Ulster teammate Iain Henderson.

The 23-year-old, given a start on his first World Cup appearance, scored his second international try and was pushing Johnny Sexton for man-of-the-match honours.

Best helped his clubmate over the line for the score, although Ireland's most capped hooker admitted that the "freak" strength of Henderson meant he probably didn't need the assistance.

"Hendy is a bit of a freak. You give him the ball that close to the line and he's very, very hard to stop," he said.

"I'm not sure whether I slowed him down or helped him across the line but, listen, it was good for him to get through a hard 80 minutes. It was very tough and it'll be good for him to put in that effort to get through.

"It's something that we're trying to get (him to show) a bit more oomph, look a bit more clued in.

"He's certainly very chilled out, he spends a lot of hours of the day asleep.

"But you can see it every, not even year, every month and big game that goes by he's better and better. That's a bit of the influence of players around him and from the coaches he's working with. It's hard to see where the limit is on his potential."

Packing down alongside Paul O'Connell on Saturday, Best does not feel it is fair to make a comparison between the Irish legend and young pretender.

"Paulie obviously has bits of his game that Hendy doesn't and Hendy can work on that.

"I don't think in world rugby you're going to get a better role model in second row than Paul O'Connell and he's very lucky to be playing alongside him.

"Hendy will learn from that and he'll get better with that but Hendy has to be his own player and he can do things when he's on the ball that a lot of people can't do.

"Unfortunately with Ireland we can sometimes be a bit limited with genetics."

On recent evidence, Henderson it seems has no such problems.

Belfast Telegraph

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