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Rory Best pinpoints where Ireland's Six Nations challenge faltered


Feeling flat: Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and captain Rory Best
Feeling flat: Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and captain Rory Best
Braced: Rob Kearney says Ireland are expecting criticism over performance
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Ireland skipper Rory Best says his side must get back-to-basics before the World Cup after having his Six Nations farewell spoiled by the 25-7 thumping by Wales on Saturday.

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The game, which saw Wales clinch a third Grand Slam under Warren Gatland, was full of Irish errors with Best annoyed at how the side's usual strengths of discipline and set-piece work deserted them in the Cardiff rain.

"We have a couple of big areas of the game that we really pride ourselves on to get us into it, the set-piece and our discipline, and both of those have let us down," said the captain.

"Obviously with the conditions being what they were, to go 10-0 down early on was incredibly frustrating. It just puts pressure on you and pressure can do very strange things to you.

"We had to force it, they got their tails up and it was a release of pressure for them.

"There's massive expectancy going into a Grand Slam game - we saw that 12 months ago. All you want is to get into the game and fire the first shot and they did that.

"We need to take a look at why those bits of the game that are normally so strong have let us down.

"We're incredibly disappointed by that. They put us under pressure and we made errors."

Best, who was winning his 117th cap in the Principality Stadium, will step away from the Test arena after the World Cup making this his last Six Nations game.

With his side second best in every department, and losing their ranking as the second best side in the world, he admitted it was hardly the way he wanted to sign off from a championship that has brought him four winners medals.

“I’m incredibly disappointed,” he noted. “Knowing it was my last Six Nations game, you want it to be a fairy tale, you want to win.

“To win in a place like this would have been a massive statement for the team but we needed a massive performance, which is what you want to go out on.

“You don’t want to go out on a performance that individually and collectively you’re not happy with. Look, it is what it is.

“When the dust settles, and we get 2019 over with, I’ll look back (overall)  on the Six Nations with a lot of pride over what I’ve achieved.

“It just so happens that the last game won’t be going on the highlight reel but that’s the way it is.”

Lock Tadhg Beirne admitted that the squad were disappointed they couldn’t make their leader’s championship farewell more memorable.

“It certainly wasn’t the case for me anyway and I can definitely speak for everyone in there,” said the Munsterman when asked if history-seeking Wales just wanted it more.

“Everyone goes out there to win and everyone was hungry for this especially knowing it was [Rory] Besty’s last game in the Six Nations and we spoke about that all week.

“We were eager to get out there and put in a performance. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.

Just as they did against England, Ireland conceded the game’s opening try within two minutes

“Obviously not ideal,” said the former Scarlet making his first outing of the championship.

“We wanted to go after them a bit and they put a lot of pressure on us from the kick-off and they executed the try very well.”

Meanwhile, Rob Kearney has admitted Ireland are braced for heavy criticism after slipping from Grand Slam champions to mid-table in the space of a year.

Full-back Kearney believes Ireland must take the flak on the chin in the wake of their third-place finish in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.

The British and Irish Lions star then pledged that Joe Schmidt’s men will not lose their nerve or  confidence.

“There was a huge backlash after the England defeat, there was a little bit of a backlash after the Italian game, albeit we had won with a bonus point but hadn’t played well,” said Kearney. “I’m sure there will be lots said about us over the coming weeks, but that’s part of being professional athletes as well.

“We just need to come together, close rank a little bit and never lose focus with how good we are as players, and as a team.

“It was pretty disappointing. They played pretty well, to be fair to them. Their defence is very good.

“Our discipline was quite poor and they just kept the scoreboard ticking along nicely. All of a sudden, we had a big old mountain to climb.

“We had this incredible year last year, and after every game, we always said, ‘Listen, the margins are small, the margins are small’.

“We’ve done really well to win, and then this year we have come out the other side of that.”

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