DUBLIN – Six Nations Grand Slam champions Ireland will pay dearly if they switch off for even a second against world champions New Zealand on Saturday, said captain Rory Best.
The grizzled 36-year-old hooker captained the Irish to an historic win over the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016, and was at the helm again in last season’s Grand Slam-winning Six Nations triumph.
But Best said Ireland need to be “on the money” if they are to prevent being turned over in what he believes will be a very physical encounter.
As evidence of the All Blacks’ world-beating ability, Best highlighted how they turned the game around against England last Saturday.
Trailing 15-0 heading towards halftime, New Zealand scored 10 points to change the complexion of the match – eventually winning 16-15.
“New Zealand showed why they are the best in the world, and how you must not switch off for a second,” said Best at his eve of match press conference in Lansdowne Road.
“We have got to be on the money.”
Best will win his 113th cap on Saturday amid questions over his role as Ireland’s number one hooker heading towards next year’s World Cup, due to both his age and his lineout throwing, which came under pressure from the Argentinians in last week’s 28-17 victory for the hosts.
He does not dismiss the All Blacks lineout jumpers, but says they are easier to plan for than the Pumas, claiming nerves began to dig in and caused him to become a “bit edgy” as Los Pumas nicked the ball at his lineouts last week.
“The difference is New Zealand will try and read, and when a team tries to read, you can formulate plans,” said Best.
“New Zealand have some fantastic lineout forwards.
“You saw that last week what they did to an English lineout which, since Steve Borthwick took charge, has been one of the best in the world. You know how devastating they can be.
“We’ve just got to put a plan together and implement it on the pitch, and if they nick one, you have got to move on to the next play.”
Best, who missed the 2-1 Test series win in Australia in the summer due to a hamstring injury, said the New Zealanders have another facet to their game apart from sublime ball-carrying skills.
“New Zealand are renowned for the style of rugby they play, and one to 15 they can all play and put people into space and through holes,” said Best.
“But probably the area of their game that doesn’t get as much credit is their physicality. They are incredibly physical in the tackle area and the carry, and at the breakdown.
“So, you know that if you don’t match that, with the talent they’ve got across the pitch, it’s going to be tough.”AFP