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Beating England only spur Irish need: Best

Title hopes may be over, but skipper insists his men are relishing clash

By Jonathan Bradley

It's hardly a Super Saturday but Ireland captain Rory Best has ensured the Irish faithful that his side are not lacking in motivation ahead of today's visit from England to the Aviva Stadium (5pm kick-off).

The Six Nations has been deprived of much last-day drama this year, with Ireland's loss in Cardiff last Friday, coupled with England's thumping victory over Scotland, ensuring that Eddie Jones' men have already secured the title for the second straight year.

The chariot still rolls into Dublin with the carrot of the Grand Slam and a record-breaking 19th straight top-level victory in play, but after two losses Ireland have had a week of knowing that they are playing for second place.

Even if there will be none of the high tension of two years ago, however, they still at present have plenty on the line.

In a somewhat underplayed sub-plot, defeat today could see Ireland landed with a 'pool of death' come the World Cup in Japan.

Currently fourth in the rankings, the draw for the 2019 competition will be made in May with Joe Schmidt's men at risk of falling out of the top band of seeds should they lose today and Wales beat France in the earlier game.

And while that could set up a potential first stage meeting with either New Zealand or indeed today's opponents two years from now, Best played down such a scenario, believing there should be no extra motivation required when representing your country at the highest level.

"We'll beat England because we're pulling on a green jersey, because we're at home and we expect probably a better, more consistent performance over the 80 minutes than we've delivered so far in this Championship," said the Ulster hooker ahead of his 104th cap.

"They're playing for a Grand Slam, but we've got a home record we want to keep intact. "We're back in front of our home fans. There has been a lot made about this game so there is pressure on from that side for us.

"Look, ultimately we want to finish with a massive result. I don't think that their want is any more than ours.

"We're well aware of what England are going for.

"But for us, I suppose it's St Paddy's weekend, we're at home and we have a very proud record at home as well, and we take huge confidence from that.

"We have focused on how to beat England, we haven't focused on the reasons why we'll beat them."

Apart from halting the English charge, an outcome that no doubt would give plenty in attendance a little added satisfaction, Best believes it is vital to finish the campaign on a high note.

After the unbelievable thrill of beating New Zealand for the first ever time in November, as well as toppling both South Africa and Australia in 2016, the side came into the Championship on the crest of a wave only for the mood to be quickly flattened by Scotland.

That was quickly followed by a pummelling of Italy and grinding out a win over France but the air was quickly let out of the balloon in Cardiff a week ago.

To lose three games in the Six Nations - since Schmidt took over they had lost just four in the Championship prior to this year - would represent a dispiriting blow and a seemingly backwards step.

"It's been very tough," Best admitted.

"After any loss it's always hard because boys do feel a bit sorry for themselves. You do dwell on the mistakes and the what ifs and what you could have done differently to affect the result.

"I think against Italy and France, yeah we were pretty good, but we expect more than that, and that's our motivation for this weekend.

"We've known that from the start of the week and we've prepared in that way.

"I suppose the latter part of the week has been reasonably easy to get boys up for it but the early part was very tough because we wanted to have something on the line.

"Very quickly we knew we had to turn the page and improve our performance from last week.

"England are coming here off the back of 18 wins in a row and looking for back-to-back Grand Slams, so that is a quality side and if you're not prepared and ready to play a quality side you're going to have a very tough day."

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