Sports

Skipper Best to win 100th cap

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Skipper Best to win 100th cap thumbnailActon native Rory Best is set to earn his 100th cap for Ireland this Saturday.

LOCAL star Rory Best is set to become only the fifth Ireland rugby player in history to make a century of Test appearances for his country when he leads the men in green against Australia this Saturday.

The 34-year-old Acton man will win his 100th cap when Ireland take on the Wallabies at Dublin's Aviva Stadium, joining an exclusive club which features Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara, Paul O'Connell and John Hayes.

Already by far Ireland's most capped hooker of all time, having overtaken the legendary Keith Wood, Best became captain at the start of last year in the wake of O'Connell's retirement.

Since then he has made history by skippering Ireland to their historic win in South Africa this summer followed by that famous first ever victory over the New Zealand All Blacks in Chicago earlier this month.

Ireland's 40-29 win at Soldier Field was the first time they had beaten New Zealand in 29 attempts dating back more than a century and Best's side gave the world champions another great game in Dublin last Saturday.

In spite of losing key players Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton along with CJ Stander to injury before the interval, Ireland put up a magnificent fight which certainly wasn't reflected in the unflattering 21-9 final scoreline.

As well as the ill-luck with injuries, the hosts were over the opposition line several times without getting the try and they also fell foul of two disputed decisions which have caused debate around the role of the video referee.

New Zealand were awarded their second try by Beauden Barrett even though replays failed to conclusively show a clear grounding of the ball and later South African referee Jaco Peyper refused to consult the television match official before affirming the touring team's third try.

It looked like the final pass to Malakai Fekitoa was forward but Best's protestations as Barrett lined up the conversion were waved away.

“I went up and asked him to take a look at it but he said he couldn't go on a captain's call, that he had a team (of officials) to look at these things.

“I tried to make the point that there was a lot at stake, especially as it was a one-score game at that stage," explained Rory.

Unlucky to be trailing 14-6 at the interval thanks to Barrett's conversion of first half tries by Fekitoa and himself, Ireland had hit back courtesy of a second penalty from Sexton's replacement, Best's Ulster colleague Paddy Jackson.

But when Barrett's conversion of that controversial second Fekitoa try limped over, the gap had widened to 12 points in the last quarter and neither side scored again.

“There are large aspects of the two games against them we'd be very happy with but it's a little disappointing that we didn't quite match here the way we attacked them both with and without the ball in Chicago," reflected Best.

That is a harsh assessment for Joe Schmidt's men played their full part in what was an another absorbing Test match which All Blacks boss Steve Hansen described as a tough game that his men were 'lucky' to come out on the right side of.

After two wonderful showdowns with the world's top team, Ireland must quickly get themselves in the right frame of mind for facing the 2015 World Cup's losing finalists Australia, who are coached by former Leinster supremo Michael Cheika.

It will be a very big day for the popular Best at a personal level but also an important test for Ireland as they seek to end the Guinness series on a high and the captain has no doubt the men in green will be ready for another significant challenge.

“We've a chance to finish the autumn with three wins from four and few would have expected that so when we meet up again tomorrow night our full focus will be on Australia and what we know will be another tough game," insisted Best after Saturday's defeat.

“We moved on quickly after the elation of winning in Chicago and likewise we'll have to park this second New Zealand game and any annoyance or frustration we feel from losing.

“To produce the expected performance against Australia we must prepare well."

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