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Humiliating loss is a huge wake-up call, admits Best


Rory Best
Rory Best
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Irish skipper Rory Best believes the side must put more pressure on themselves after their 57-17 humiliation at the hands of England in Twickenham on Saturday.

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With just two games to go before the World Cup kicks off in Japan, the team who beat the All Blacks and won a Grand Slam in 2018 are having their title credentials questioned after a string of performances ranging from the indifferent to the catastrophic.

While only a warm-up, Saturday's game falls into the latter category, producing a record defeat for any Irish side in Twickenham and their worst loss since Joe Schmidt took over in 2013. 

Best, who will retire after the tournament in Japan, admits the thumping may have to act as a reality check with Ireland not in the place they thought they were after a long summer of preparation.

"We have to put more pressure on ourselves in training," said the Ulsterman.

"We've said before everyone thinks they're in a good spot now. You've come off a pre-season and you're training among yourself. There's pressure but nothing is like the pressure when you get into a game.

"You can either confirm that you're in a really good spot or it can make you realise that you're not where you want to be.

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"We're not where we want to be."

One area of the game that badly malfunctioned was the Irish line-out. Best and his eventual replacement Sean Cronin saw six of their throws picked off by an English side that had sacrificed genuine jumpers to add more scavenging ability to their back-row.

"I think it's incredibly frustrating when the set-piece doesn't go as you planned but there's a big difference between training and a match," Best said.

"You try to put as much pressure on as you can in training but you come into a game and you're against one of the best line-out defences in the world."

Best continued: "We won the first one, it went well and then competed at the second. Then we got within ourselves and everyone got a little bit nervous. They just kept coming after us.

"There's no doubt that it affected our game. We have to look at why it affected our game and what we can do better. I think we have to be quicker.

"They probably gave us a lesson. We were a bit laboured coming in, we gave them a few pictures to look at and read and a combination of throws not right, a couple of calls and a couple of movements not right. 

"We thought we were in a good place but it was a big lesson for us. We have to get a lot better. We have to put more pressure on ourselves.

"There's not a lot you can do except put your hands up and say we weren't good enough there."

Bundee Aki, who bagged Ireland's late consolation, was similarly stark when it came to what needs to happen between now and Japan.

"We've got six days to turn this around, to be able to put in a performance we're proud of," he said. "We've got to make sure we don't replicate that kind of performance, so it's time to put in some good, quality training and get back to the drawing board.

"We'd rather get things wrong now than in the future, but we were very slow-footed.

"England are a quality side, give them a sniff and they'll blow you away and that's what they did. We've a lot of work to do."

• A young Ulster 'A' side began their Celtic Cup campaign with an impressive 35-32 victory against Scarlets over the weekend.

A dramatic late try from David McCann sealed the win.

Ulster Women, however, tasted defeat when they went down 24-5 to Leinster in Armagh.

Ulster Schools, meanwhile, brought their summer series of matches to an end with a convincing 48-10 win over Irish Qual Rugby at University of Limerick.

And there was a disappointing finish to Ulster Under-19's trip to Maynooth as they lost 28-27 to Connacht.

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