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Best focused on task at hand

Ireland captain Rory Best has sought to diffuse any hostility with England ahead Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash at Twickenham.

Flanker Stephen Ferris accused the English of being "bad losers" earlier in the week, while full-back Rob Kearney stated Ireland's recent dominance of the fixture is because they are the superior team. But Best refused to pour more fuel on the fire ahead of a showdown that should determine who finishes Six Nations runners-up.

"We know that in past we've had some very tough games against England and we expect nothing different tomorrow," the Ulster hooker said. "At this level nobody particularly likes losing because we're very competitive players. You only get to the top of sport by being competitive."

He added: "I've always found that if it's been a tough, hard game, you have that respect for each other. Historically England have always been there or thereabouts as Grand Slam champions.

"When I was growing up England dominated this tournament. Once you're lucky enough to play for Ireland you want to beat the best and that's what England have been."

Ireland have won seven of their last eight Six Nations meetings with England, including three of the last four at Twickenham, but Best insisted that record is irrelevant.

"Unfortunately our record won't have any impact - those games are in the past. It's all about what happens at 5pm tomorrow evening," the 29-year-old said. "As far as we're concerned we're playing the reigning Six Nations champions in their own back yard. They've won three of their four outings so we know they're a very tough team.

"We're looking forward to it but we're under no illusions over the size of the challenge. The past is the past."

England still have a mathematical chance of retaining their title and have surpassed all expectations under the guidance of interim head coach Stuart Lancaster. Best, who will eclipse Keith Wood's milestone of 58 Test appearances to become Ireland's most capped hooker, has been impressed by their progress.

"England have been very efficient so far. They negotiated two banana skins against Scotland and Italy very well," he said. "They upped the level of performance against Wales and then upped it again last weekend. They look like a team that's hungry to win for each other and that rings alarm bells for any team playing them. When you have that hunger to succeed, it goes a long way."


From Belfast Telegraph