'It's about Japan': Rory Best insists emotion of final Dublin appearance won't interfere with Ireland's World Cup preparation
Rory Best insists he won't let the emotion of his final match in Ireland get in the way of the squad's World Cup preparations this weekend.
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The legendary Ulster and Ireland captain will make his final appearance at the Aviva Stadium when Wales visit on Saturday at 2pm.
It's the team's final warm-up game before they fly out to Japan and Best says that his own landmark will not be taking centre-stage before or during the match.
"It's not something that I've given a lot of thought to," he said. "It wasn't until I walked off the pitch today and one woman was in tears saying it's the last time I will walk off the pitch at Carton House (Ireland's training base).
"I hadn't given that any thought because it's about focusing on this game.
"After the game, the realisation will hit home properly but it's important that doesn't affect the preparation. It will be a really big occassion when I look back on it and I'm sure my family will feel it a lot more than me in the build-up.
"For us, it's about making sure we perform, take a massive step forward and put ourselves in the best possible position for Japan and (Ireland's World Cup opener against) Scotland then becomes the next target."
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It will also be the squad's first game since the final nine players were cut from the wider panel. Now that all the speculation is over, Best says the remaining players are showing some added confidence.
"When you get down to that 31, it's funny how take nining players out makes it seem like there's much more room and you can get into your small groups a bit easier and share everything," he said.
"That's what makes a good squad and this is a tight-knit one. We're in a nice place confidence-wise.
"You know now that bar injuries this is the 31 players and you get an extra spring in the step amongst the players. It's a great time because you don't feel that sword is over your head anymore. You roll your sleeves up and prepare to give our best performance on Saturday.
"There are a few boys coming in for their first games this season, good players, and they've added a little bit of energy. It's always about looking forward.
"We know we're never as good as people say we are but the flip side of that is that we know we're never as bad as people say we are.
"We've got to try and get better. We were more disappointed than anyone after the England game. We made sure we got a few things addressed and gave ourselves something that we could hang our hat on."
After that now infamous 57-15 hammering at Twickenham, Best's own display was the one most under the microscope and he says that even the squad's senior stars, like himself, were wary until the final 31-man squad was unveiled.
"Even before the England game, everything's a competition because ultimately you know it has to go down to 31," he said. "Some of our better players are sometimes the more insecure and that's why they're the best; they work the hardest. Until that squad's named you're never sure. That creates a drive to be better than the guy you're competing with."
The malfunctioning line-out, of course, was central to the criticisms of Best and Ireland's display in England and he admits it's all about gaining early momentum with the set-piece this weekend.
He said: "It's about confidence and getting different people used to each other. When you win the first couple, you go on from there. The line-out is a game of confidence. When you lose a couple, everyone gets nervous. That's not where you want to be.
"It's only natural. This weekend it's important for us to go on a run and win those first couple. If it doesn't go that way, we can't let it affect the rest of our game like we did against England. That was the most disappointing thing."
Iain Henderson has been named on the bench for Saturday's game while Jacob Stockdale has been rested.
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