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Rory Best: History will tell us not to get too carried away

By Michael Sadlier

If you were hoping for high fives and breathless comment about awesome achievement then it was time to think again.

Yes, Ireland had beaten all before them this month but the latest victory was being viewed as only another staging point in a side's evolution rather than reason to grandstand what had just been achieved in such dramatic style against Australia.

And the mood in the camp reflected what had been a wonderfully gritty but nevertheless wobbly enough Irish effort.

And when mention was made of the last autumn clean sweep in 2006, Rory Best brought all the media hype to ground level by reminding his audience about what happened the following year at the World Cup.

Then, a strong-looking Ireland squad - having just missed out on a Six Nations title and Grand Slam a few months earlier - crashed down to earth by going out in the pool stages.

"I was around for the last clean sweep in 2006 and it's a bit of an understatement to say the 2007 World Cup didn't go as we planned," Best said.

"There are a lot of people that weren't there in 2007, it's a reasonably young squad.

"But there are a few who were about and they understand that winning three games in a row is fine but, ultimately, they are friendlies.

"We now start into a new competition in February (the Six Nations) and we saw last year that if you step off by 5% you lose big games by three points against top sides and that's what happened last year to stop us grand slamming," Best added, regarding last season's defeat to England.

"We'll look forward to defending the Six Nations Championship and we'll not be looking beyond that," he said.

As for some of Ireland's less than exemplary work at the set-piece, the Ireland hooker, as is his way, called it pretty much as he had seen it.

"I think scrum-wise we were a little inconsistent, we were up against a team that had a lot of tricks up their sleeve in terms that they don't want to take you on head-to-head. At times we went well," he added.

"There were a couple we weren't happy with and that is just about playing together, there have been three different front rows over three games but at key moments we got it right and it's not a bad starting point for us."

Fine, but then the lineouts came up and, here, Ireland were much less assured with the stats showing that four had been lost, costing them good field position and potential scoring chances.

"Lineout-wise they are one of the best competing teams in the world and we won't be happy with some of our returns but we'll be happy with some of the ones we won under pressure."

And in answer to the inevitable question on just how Ireland are now going to deal with the growing expectations that will now surround not only their defence of the Six Nations and then the World Cup, Best simply said: "It is something we haven't talked about.

"We focus on each game as it comes and that is what is drilled into us and what Joe (Schmidt) is all about.

"We're looking forward to the December camp and I'm sure there are a lot of aspects of that game (Australia) that Joe won't be happy about and then we'll look at February (the Six Nations)."

So,basically, this autumn's success is all very fine but doesn't really count for anything. Point made.

Belfast Telegraph


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