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Rugby World Cup: Ireland have to up game for France, says Rory Best

By Jonathan Bradley

Rory Best says Ireland will need to "ramp things up" ahead of their crucial meeting with France next weekend after qualifying for the World Cup quarter-finals thanks to an unconvincing victory over Italy at the Olympic Stadium.

The Ulster skipper was a strong performer for Joe Schmidt's men, with provincial team-mate Iain Henderson rightfully taking home the Man of the Match award, but Ireland were far from their best before labouring to a 16-9 win.

With both teams having won three from three, Ireland meet France in Cardiff next weekend to decide who tops the pool and likely avoid New Zealand in the last eight.

Ahead of that Millennium Stadium showdown, Best said: "For us, it'll be let's learn the lessons from this and make sure we're better next week.

"We've a seven-day turnaround to ramp things up and get things ready.

"We talked about this game being the start of a big build-up and the World Cup really starts now. We've got past this game. It's important we improve over the next two weeks if we want to do anything."

After the relative armchair rides of the first two pool games against Canada and Romania, this was certainly more demanding fare.

Best acknowledged that a lack of intensity was apparent in the bruising encounter, but admitted that the more challenging nature of the game would be good for the side.

Best added: "The preparation was good.

"Italy started off well, but the lack of intensity for me was more just a constant throughout the game.

"At times we showed it, and then eased back off again.

"I don't think we expect that to happen. It's hard looking back at it but it kind of felt like (we) were waiting for someone to break free rather than grab it by the scruff of the neck ourselves.

"I am a bit sore; there were a lot of scrums and they were very physical especially around the breakdown.

"It took its toll on us. There will be a lot of sore bodies but it was a good workout for us.

"We know we are going to be a lot better, we are going to have to handle when teams come off the line and put pressure on us like that better."

While the hooker was understandably pleased to see his side into the last eight with a game to spare, and stressed the need for perspective, he called on his team-mates to cut out the errors that saw yesterday's win lack the cohesion and fluidity of past efforts.

"Every now and again I think it does no harm to be brought back down to earth and Italy definitely did that today," he said.

"We know that when we get things right then we're very good.

"When you don't get things right at this level then really the gap isn't a big one to bridge. Italy really put it up to us and put us under pressure.

"We got the win, we are into a quarter-final; they were backed into a corner and came out firing.

"We need to be better but we know we can be better.

"We'll regroup, taking a long, hard look at the match and then park it.

"We will look at how we are going to beat France and how we are going to build on the performance.

"A couple of mistakes don't make us a bad side.

"There is a lot of experience of knockout rugby here and we know that if we can keep improving week on week, we will be a very tough team to beat."

One such required improvement will no doubt regard their discipline.

Staying on the right side of the referee has been an integral part of Ireland's success under Schmidt but Jerome Garces' whistle was heard all too often yesterday.

"It's hard when you concede penalties to get that intensity because the game becomes stop start," he admitted.

"They put pressure on us which forced us into errors.

"Some were forced and others were unforced.

"We'll look at those unforced ones because it's those that we can definitely rectify for next week.

"For us, we know that if we get that penalty count into single figures then we're a very hard team to beat and we just didn't do that.

"That'll be one area we look at. There's a few but that's definitely one."

Don't and you can be sure they'll pay more of a penalty against the French.

Belfast Telegraph


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