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Ireland v New Zealand: We won't take foot off gas against All Backs, says Rory best

Skipper warns that one off heroic displays are no longer enough as Ireland aim for a repeat triumph against the awesome All Blacks

By Jonathan Bradley

It is still less than a year since Rory Best assumed the role of the Ireland captaincy and already two of the side's seemingly unbreakable glass ceilings have been shattered.

A first win against the Springboks in South Africa was achieved in June, while even that piece of history was superseded by the events of Chicago two weekends ago when 111 years of frustration against the All Blacks came to an emphatic end.

But just as Best, who will claim a personal piece of history next weekend when he becomes the first Ulsterman to win 100 Irish caps, returned home from tour this summer frustrated that one win had not been two, he wants even more when he leads his side out against New Zealand in Dublin this evening (5.30pm kick-off).

"It's about us being consistent with our performance levels, that's the most important element," said the hooker.

"Big one-off performances and then a drop off isn't acceptable any more with this group of players."

Such has been the struggle for Irish sides during Best's international career.

In 2007, big wins against Wales and England had a Croke Park loss to France sandwiched in between to deny what would have been a first Grand Slam in 59 years while the drop off in World Cups has been even more pronounced.

In 2011, a famous victory over Australia in the pool stage still failed to bring about a first ever semi-final spot when Wales were triumphant in the last eight.

And it was a similar story last year when France were demolished in the Millennium Stadium only for Argentina to give the Irish a dose of their own medicine seven days later.

For Best, all those challenges to back up big performances pale in comparison to what awaits in Dublin this evening.

The All Blacks have never lost consecutive games to the same opponent under Steve Hansen's watch - the last time such a feat was accomplished was by South Africa in 2009 - and despite their coach's assertion that they come into the Aviva Stadium clash as underdogs, Best believes it will take one of Ireland's best ever performances to topple the World champions for the second time in a month.

"This week we'll need a performance that's up there with the best we've ever produced in an Ireland shirt," he said.

"That tag (of favourites) is something for the media, for press conferences.

"They are the number one team in the world for a reason.

"There won't be any talk about favourites or underdogs in the changing room before the game.

"It's about knowing we will really have to perform in order to beat a very, very good All Blacks team.

"We've put the pressure on our group of players through the coaches to make sure that the preparation we did two weeks ago won't be enough.

"It's got to be more, so we put that pressure on ourselves internally and we've made sure that everything we covered two weeks ago, we've covered that and more. That's how we deal with it.

"Like I said, that tag of favourites and underdogs doesn't really mean a whole lot to us because we're all about preparing ourselves for this weekend, getting ready mentally for what will be an unbelievably tough challenge."

With 111 years of evidence to contend with heading into Soldier Field a fortnight ago, Ireland seemed to relish the idea that you need tries, not penalties, to beat a team who rack up points at a rate of knots.

When three points were on offer, skipper Best more often than not turned them down to go for the corner and was rewarded with two scores from the maul.

New Zealand will be confident they've rectified the issue with the return of their first-choice, world-class lock pairing Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick but Best is keen that Ireland focus only on their own preparations.

"They are going to be hurting a little bit and they will come after us in the set-piece," he said.

"We looked back on Chicago and we were fairly hard on the defensive elements in our performance.

"(Defence coach) Andy Farrell expects us to go out and deliver. He's focused on our systems and how we stop these tries.

"There's been a lot made of the two second rows coming in and - they've brought in two world-class second rows but they have lost Jerome Kaino, a world-class player who obviously played against us the last time out.

"We can't control who they pick and how they play. We can only control how we perform and how we react to situations and how we prepare and by and large we've prepared well."

To beat the best, and do it for a second time, that will only be the start.

Belfast Telegraph


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