Ireland's rock: Rory Best merited huge ovation on final Dublin appearance, says coach Schmidt
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has declared the highlight of his Aviva Stadium farewell on Saturday as the reception given by the crowd to Rory Best.
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Both coach and captain will walk away from Irish rugby after the World Cup in Japan, making the 19-10 win over Wales a last chance to say goodbye to the home crowds.
Best received a huge ovation when subbed on the hour mark and again at the final whistle with Schmidt praising the man he made skipper in 2016.
"Because I see how hard he works and because he is a bit for a rock for us, I think the standing ovation for Rory Best was absolutely merited," he said when asked for his favourite part of the day. Heading to Japan now on the back of two wins, Schmidt admitted that everything he's done this year has been geared towards reaching a first-ever World Cup semi-final.
"We experimented a bit during the Six Nations and we wouldn't normally do that," he said.
Schmidt continued: “I said at the time, we’d won three of the five Six Nations, we didn’t need another one of those.
“We need a semi-final in this big competition coming up.
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“If you try to chase everything, I don’t know if you’ve done too much farming but if you try to chase the whole herd all you end up is chasing.
“If you corral things and decide where your priorities are I think you give yourself a better chance.
“But you need that luck, you need a few things to go your way.”
While the real best team in the world be crowned on November 2 in Yokohama, Saturday’s victory also took Ireland to the top of the rankings for a first time and they will hold the position through the start of the tournament.
Another first for Irish Rugby under Joe Schmidt the coach wasn’t willing to entertain the notion that anyone but his homeland were to be considered favourites for the crown.
“I didn’t realise that we were (going top) until I did an interview after the game,” said the 53-year-old, who took over when Ireland were ranked eight.
“That’s how far away from our thoughts that has been.
“It’s a label, it’s a nice label to get, and it’s nice [that it’s the] first time that we’ve been in that position.
“We have been lucky enough to tick a few firsts off with this group over the last six and a half years but that label is not going to be relevant to anyone.
“We all know who the favourites are and it’s not us.
“Knowing [All Blacks coach] Steve [Hansen] and Ian Foster and the coaching staff and some of the players, for them it’s far from their minds.
“The All Blacks are very process-focussed.
“For them it is about getting out and making the ball work and working hard for each other and they do an exceptional job of it and we acknowledge the quality that they bring to world rugby.”
The All Blacks themselves, who could yet meet Ireland in the quarter-finals, enjoyed their last hit-out before the World Cup on Saturday, beating Tonga by a score of 92-7, running in 14 tries in the game.