Iain Henderson: Rory Best has silenced critics with just a glimpse of his greatness
Iain Henderson hailed the impact of Ireland skipper Rory Best after the 37-year-old led his side to an emphatic World Cup victory over Scotland in Yokohama yesterday.
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The 27-3 win to open their Pool A campaign came courtesy of three first-half tries with James Ryan, Tadhg Furlong and the captain himself getting over the whitewash.
Andrew Conway's score had things wrapped up before the hour mark, but Best still went the distance by playing the full 80 minutes.
Having been questioned and criticised throughout the summer - and called a "weakness" and an "emotional selection" by former Scotland and Lions prop Peter Wright on BBC Scotland prior to kick-off - the hooker's showing will surely have been a source of great personal satisfaction.
"I think he had an absolutely sterling performance, he silenced a lot of his critics out there," said Henderson, his successor as Ulster captain.
"You (those on the outside) don't understand what Rory Best brings to a squad and I think that today people got a small insight into what he can add."
Henderson added: “In World Cups, when you’ve a few injuries and not that many subs left, it’s not ideal. People want to show they can play 80 minutes.”
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It wasn’t just Best proving some doubters wrong.
Ireland’s World Cup preparations were scrutinised during the summer, most notably after a humiliating day against England in Twickenham last month.
Having put in their most complete performance for 18 months on the occasion of their first World Cup clash, and already able to have one eye on a likely quarter-final with South Africa, they must now feel they have timed their run to perfection.
“It was good to see the work from the couple weeks since the last game and the whole pre-season prep coming along nicely,” Henderson said. “I still think there’s a lot to work on but it was good to get that sort of performance and result first game up.
Henderson was prominent throughout, creating Ireland’s first score with a gallop through the Scottish rearguard and acting as primary lineout caller at a set-piece that claimed 12 from 12.
“For five minutes after it I wasn’t feeling great,” he laughed of his lengthy burst. “When you see someone else doing that it gives a massive lift, it gets me excited. There was unbelievable support in the clear out and then James Ryan with the try.”
Ireland will be on the move today, switching from their Yokohama base before taking on Japan in Shizuoka on Saturday.
“We all know what Japan have done to big teams at the World Cup before,” warned Henderson. “We just have to concentrate and get our stuff right for next week.”