Irish supporters have slept a little sounder in their beds since Ireland’s 19-10 victory over Wales at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
After a summer series which raised worrying questions ahead of the World Cup, the last warm-up game against a strong Welsh side finally showed signs of the 2018 version of this team.
Ireland consistently got over the gain line against Warren Gatland’s side and they were strong defensively for long periods, especially in the first half.
This was more like it.
That performance was much-needed, for confidence more than anything else and captain Rory Best, who himself had an emotional day on his final outing in a green shirt at home, believes that the display struck a perfect balance between being tactically astute and bringing the required emotion to proceedings.
“We showed in the two Wales games that there is a lot of stuff that Joe puts in but there is also a backbone of the team that needs to take responsibility for how we emotionally invest into the game,” Best said at the launch of Specsavers Audiologists’ ‘Don’t Suffer in Silence’ campaign.
“It wasn’t there enough in the Six Nations. We were relying on the coaching we were getting and the game plan. We didn’t have that…it’s hard to put into words, when we just [clicks fingers]…go and you see this Irish team that looks ferocious, we didn’t get that in the Six Nations, we didn’t get in against England. We saw a bit of it against Wales. In fact, we saw a lot of it in the first half and then we saw it on Saturday.”
“We can’t just rely purely on detail, same as we can’t just rely purely on emotion. There’s got to be a balance and we’ve got to find the balance and for whatever reason, in the Six Nations and the England game, we didn’t get it right.
“We feel we’re maybe starting to get it right now so you do get confidence with the coaching staff, with the players you have, but ultimately you do need performances and results. Or else there comes a little bit of ‘are you trying to fool yourself or is it actually there?'”
Driving and establishing that emotion, clearly, is no easy task. In previous generations of this Irish side, a loud, passionate, locker banging speech before a game would have done the trick.
However, this team is different, the players are different and they respond in different ways.
There are also multiple leaders in the group who all have their say as Best explains.
“You’ve got to listen and know what your squad is like. You’ve kind of got to know who responds to what and the beauty of it is, like in any organisation, the business of rugby, different people respond in different ways.
“I think we have a nice little cross-section of leaders. The way [I deliver] is slightly different to Johnny (Sexton), and Johnny is different to Pete (O’Mahony) and then Earlsy (Keith Earls) who doesn’t say much but when he does everyone stands and listens.”
With a long tournament ahead and severe pressure on this Irish team to perform, Best and those in the leadership group will have a hugely important role to play both on and off the pitch.
Rory Best continues to tackle stigma associated with hearing loss for Specsavers Audiologists’ ‘Don’t Suffer in Silence’ campaign.
An advocate of proactive hearing health, Rory urges the Irish community not to take their hearing for granted.