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Rory Best bidding to finish campaign with a flourish

By Conor George

Rory Best has challenged his Ireland colleagues to target a third place finish in the Six Nations Championship.

In order to achieve that goal they will need to finish the campaign on a high and defeat what is a very impressive Italian side in Rome on Saturday.

England barely held on against the Italians in Twickenham on Sunday, while the Italians also beat France, which highlights the challenge Ireland will face.

“You want to win every game when you wear an Ireland shirt and that is no different this weekend,” said Best.

“This Championship did not go the way we wanted it to. And we are disappointed by that.

“We really believe that we are a better team than just the one win suggests. And the games we lost we could and probably should have won.

“Certainly the Scotland game we left a lot behind us that day. Now the emphasis is on coming out on the right side of the result on Saturday against Italy.

“It absolutely won’t be easy. You saw how strongly they finished against England. That’s the challenge facing us now.”

Best insisted that the mood in the Ireland camp has been excellent throughout the tournament. The infusion of young blood has, the hooker revealed, helped keep the camp upbeat.

“We are enjoying being together and that has helped a lot,” he said.

“The injuries are the injuries and we haven’t really looked at that. The way we are looking at it, as players, is how exciting it is to have a list as long as we have of injuries and still have some of the talent we have out on display.

“Some of them might only be 21, 22 but it doesn’t really matter as far as we are concerned.

“We’ve kept it positive. It’s not about who we’re missing. It’s about who is coming in to that slot and that’s exciting.

“That sort of competition also keeps everyone who has been around for a few years on their toes, just looking at the quality young players that are coming through.”

The enthusiasm of the younger players has also rubbed off on the “veterans” in the squad!

“These guys have come in and they’re no preconceived ideas,” added Best. “They’ve no memories of poorer camps or when things weren’t so enjoyable.

“That’s invaluable to a squad because it overtakes the negative memories and pushes them away.

“It also helps that training is dynamic and everyone knows what they are supposed to do and the level is exactly where it should be.”

Best also suggested that the players are absolutely accepting of the mistakes made in previous games and are determined to make up for those inaccuracies at the weekend.

“As a player group we have set ourselves high standards. And we didn’t reach those against Scotland certainly,” he added.

“When we look back on the two games we lost we know there were chances there for us and we didn’t take them.

“That’s something we’ve discussed. And we will look to apply those lessons against Italy this weekend.”

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