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Ireland captain Rory Best says try proved a perfect script for 'strange' Dublin swansong


First and last: Rory Best touches down for Ireland’s opening try on his final Six Nations match in Dublin
First and last: Rory Best touches down for Ireland’s opening try on his final Six Nations match in Dublin
Going nowhere: France’s Felix Lamby is tackled by Cian Kelly and Rory Best as Ireland ran out 26-14 winners in Best’s final Six Nations home tie
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Ireland skipper Rory Best says he could hardly have scripted his final Six Nations game in Dublin any better.

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The Ulster hero, who will be 37 in the summer, is contracted up until the September World Cup, but said on Saturday that he is almost certain to walk away from the international game after the tournament.

Yesterday then represented something of an Aviva Stadium swansong with the hooker scoring one of his side's four tries in the 26-14 win that keeps alive Ireland's slim championship hopes ahead of the concluding trip to Wales on Saturday.

"It wasn't something I'd thought much about until the last maybe 24 hours," said the skipper, who had his children with him on the pitch afterwards.

"It's strange to think it's the last time I'll hop on a team bus here to go to a Six Nations game.

"But it's exactly how you'd want it to go. The intensity we played with in the first half, it was great to be a part of."

While France were terrible until a late rally saw them score two converted scores, Ireland looked much more like the side who came into this championship on the crest of a wave.

For Best, the three-day trip to Belfast after playing Italy helped the side get back into their usual mindset.

"I think the minicamp in Belfast helped us a bit," he said. "It was nice to get away, to go out for dinner on the Wednesday night.

"Sometimes when you're a settled squad, you can forget that you do have to spend a little bit of time together.

"It was nice, we didn't have the pressure of a game. It was a three-day game rather than the last one here which was two days. We're a tight-knit bunch."

Best did admit that the previous performances in the championship have been sub-par but felt yesterday, when they dominated every facet of the first hour, was a reminder of how good they can be when playing to their strengths.

"We've been as frustrated as anyone with some of the stuff in the first three games," he said. "A couple of the things we talked about was just taking individual responsibility.

"There's been a lot of criticism aimed at some of our players but we are at our best whenever we attack."

Despite Les Bleus' struggles, the win was undoubtedly Ireland's best performance of an uneven championship and gives them hope of retaining the crown they won last year.

That will require not just a win over Grand Slam chasing Wales but also England to slip up against Scotland.

To have any chance of that, Best believes his side will have to raise their performance level once again in Cardiff.

"We've got to be better than the way we played today. We were really, really miserly with the ball, we didn't give them anything easy and we put a lot of pressure on them.

"I think that we played a lot closer to how we can play, which is pleasing.

"We know there's more to come, but to go to the Millennium Stadium and win with everything at stake is going to take a massive effort.

"It's a really great way to finish off my Six Nations career. There's probably fewer better stadiums in the world to play in than the Millennium Stadium, never mind with all the expectations that they're going to have and the atmosphere.

"It'll be a fantastic occasion to sign off a Six Nations career that has spanned a few games!

"We know going away from home next week, going to Cardiff, they're in fantastic form at the minute.

"We have a six-day turnaround, a lot of sore bodies.

"We're going to have to be a lot better. The exciting thing is how we get our teeth into being a lot better.

"But we'll look at how we can be better and I think that was getting closer to the sort of performance that we expect from ourselves."

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