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Rory Best silences critics but demands another Ireland improvement despite smashing Scotland in World Cup opener

Rory Best played all 80 minutes of Ireland's opening victory over Scotland.
Rory Best played all 80 minutes of Ireland's opening victory over Scotland.
Rory Best impressed in Ireland's opening game against Scotland.
YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 22: Rory Best of Ireland leads out his team during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group A game between Ireland and Scotland at International Stadium Yokohama on September 22, 2019 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

When the full-time whistle sounded in Yokohama on Sunday, there was absolutely nobody questioning Rory Best's credentials.

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The Banbridge man's place as Ireland captain and first choice hooker had been queried, while his performance was put under extra-special scrutiny, after the heavy warm-up defeat to England in Twickenham.

But Joe Schmidt backed his man and after one game in Japan, the rugby world nodded in agreement.

Even before the opening match at the Rugby World Cup , Scottish radio had branded Best a weakness in Ireland's armour and suggested his selection may have been on an emotional basis rather than on merit.

Nine tackles, five carries, a 100% line-out record after 12 set-pieces and, of course, a first-half try.

Doubters silenced.

Best, who played all 80 minutes, was visibly emotional at the end of a stirring rendition of Ireland's Call before kick-off - proud and inspiring.

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Yet after Ireland's 27-3 victory, he was equally as humble, equally as focused on the task ahead.

"We're under no illusions," said the skipper, who looks likely to lead his side into a quarter-final against South Africa barring a big upset in the remaining pool games.

"That was a good start for us but we know and the management will show us tomorrow how much we need to improve going forward.

"We started really well. We were positive and we wanted to attack. Obviously when the conditions came in during the second half, it became a bit more of an arm wrestle. We know how good a team they are and we're delighted with that win.

"It was a really good combination. We see a couple of the tight tries came from great play by Gary Ringrose, Bundee (Aki), then Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway - they're getting us into positions. The way Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray kicked in the first half, it leaves it easier as a pack if you're on the front foot."

Leading by example, keeping his eyes on the prize, directing praise elsewhere - a true captain's performance.

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