Shane Hannon
Shane Hannon

08:08 30 Aug 2019


Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt has defended team captain Rory Best ahead of Ireland's World Cup warm-up fixture against Wales in Cardiff this Saturday (2.30pm).

Schmidt was speaking to the media at Carton House yesterday afternoon and was keen to address criticism levelled at Best since the heavy defeat to England last weekend.

"Rory wants to get a little bit more time because he feels he was underdone and he didn't have the energy in his legs. That fatigue starts to affect other elements of the game.

"I think the people who really launched the criticism at him, some of it is unfair. The quality of what he provided as far as his support play and breakdown work was still of a really good standard.

"To put his performance in a nutshell that is the lineout, when there are so many moving parts... he'll be disappointed with a few throws but at the same time we're disappointed with a couple of the calls, the speed, maybe the speed and movement."

Schmidt went on to say that he felt much of the commentary against Best since Saturday was unfair.

"There is a little bit of undue criticism, at the same time Rory is very self-critical. He is very conscious of wanting to prove himself. I'm not sure he's read what's external, but I know internally he sets an incredibly high benchmark for himself. He didn't reach that benchmark and he's very keen to re-establish that benchmark coming off the bench on Saturday."

The Ireland Head Coach also acknowledged last week's record-breaking 42-point defeat at Twickenham was partly as a result of players having the wrong frame of mind.

"Last weekend should have been the most important game we were thinking of. To be frank, some of those players weren't thinking about last weekend, they were thinking about making sure they were on the plane.

"I do think we took our eye off the ball, we were not quite as up for the game as we should have been. And we were a bit heavy-legged and I accept the responsibility for that."

"It [this Saturday v Wales] is the most important game for a long time because each week it should be the most important game."

Former Sale Sharks captain Will Addison is set to line out at full-back for Ireland in Saturday's game. It will be his first appearance since January and Schmidt says the Ulster star and former England Under-20 player will be keen to impress.

"It's his first run-out for a long time, he didn't play the back end of the season so for Will it's a really important opportunity but he has to hit the ground running.

"He's trained really well this week so we'd be very hopeful that he can slot in very quickly. Before we played Argentina in November last year he stepped in at very late notice at 13 and did a very good job for us. That's the sort of flexibility he offers, the fact that he plays on the wing and he's a very capable kicker of the ball, including goalkicking.

"He becomes that jack of all trades that we may well need. He's a jack of all trades but he's a master of a few as well and we'd love to see him put his best foot forward on Saturday."

Schmidt named his team to take on Wales yesterday, with Jack Carty getting the nod at out-half in what will be the Connacht native's first start and sixth overall appearance for his country.

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