Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby World Cup

Why Rory Best is still our go-to guy: Brian O'Driscoll backs Ireland captain ahead of World Cup

Rory Best watches on as his Ireland side limp through the closing stages of Saturday's defeat to England.
Rory Best watches on as his Ireland side limp through the closing stages of Saturday's defeat to England.

Brian O'Driscoll has backed beleaguered Irish captain Rory Best to turn his form around after a dismal day in Twickenham during last Saturday's record defeat to England.

Rugby round up Newsletter

Game previews, plus expert insights and exclusive commentary from the Belfast Telegraph sports team.

However, Jamie Heaslip has warned that it is "squeaky bum" time for a number of Joe Schmidt's squad players, pointing out today could be a pivotal moment for many of them in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

"There's no doubt he's on the wane," O'Driscoll told Off The Ball. "He's 37 years of age and has been on the front row of international rugby for over 12 years. I don't know any human being that wouldn't be massively effected by the brutality of what he has taken, particularly the way he has played the game.

"For me, he doesn't have to be one of the best players on the pitch. He just has to facilitate others to do their best jobs.

"He needs to get his darts right, scrummage well and hit rucks. He doesn't need to be a ball carrier anymore. His ability to do that has been watered down in recent years. He's lost that little bit of spark in the legs so just do the simple things well.

"If we can get his accuracy at line-out time and our stats much improved and win our set-piece at scrum, his ability to lead and be a cool head and key times is still a great asset to have. I think he's our go-to guy still. I don't think you change anything this close to a World Cup. The great player everyone was heralding in November hasn't vanished.

"He's had a couple of blips but on his day, he can be a world class operator. I think you stick with him particularly because no-one else has put their hand up.

Sign In

"Sean Cronin was given his chance, Niall Scannell looked like he was going to break in and then had a very quiet year for Munster. Rory is the guy in possession and his leadership might be a huge component to have when we get to the difficult moments."

Jamie Heaslip believes this is the best squad Ireland have ever sent to the World Cup but has warned that it is "squeaky bum time" for some players.

"You'll have a certain amount of players who will know they are on the plane and trying to get themselves ready while others are in no-man's land," Heaslip told Ireland AM.

"They need to focus on the detail and you need to fit into Joe's system in order to stand out.

"You need to take every opportunity and not mess up. Otherwise, he will see that and if you can't do what he wants you won't make the plane. Today will be a big big day in camp and it's squeaky bum time for a lot of players.

"The leadership group didn't play to their standard against England and it will show their quality ff they can bounce back. Nobody is safe on that plane. I said before there were 25 who were safe but that's down to 23.

"But there's another opportunity this week. This is the best squad collectively we've ever had. They're going to Japan to win the competition. But they need to focus on every moment."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph