Six Nations

Grand Slam is what dreams are made of - Best

2018-03-18 15:17
Rory Best (AFP Photo)

Twickenham - Rory Best said captaining Ireland to a Six Nations Grand Slam is something one dreams about and that doing it with such a special tight-knit group made it that much more memorable.

The 35-year-old Northern Irishman said this Grand Slam -- achieved through a clinical 24-15 win over England at Twickenham on Saturday - meant more as captain and because he was only reserve hooker in the 2009 Slam.

Best, skippering the Irish to just their third Slam of all time, along with rampaging fullback Rob Kearney were the only two survivors of that squad - though star flyhalf Johnny Sexton was in the wider training squad.

"It is obviously a little bit more special quite apart from starting every game but also captaining the side," said Best.

"It is something every kid dreams of is pulling on that special green jersey and playing for Ireland and then to win something.

"But captaining them to a Grand Slam are what dreams are made of and this is probably the highest point of my career."

Best, who is Ireland's third most capped player with 111 and only legends Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara ahead of him, said to do it with such a great bunch made it that bit more special.

"To do this with this tight-knit group of players and coaches makes it even better as they are a really special bunch," said Best.

For head coach Joe Schmidt this at last sealed the deal, as his side had fallen just short in terms of the Grand Slam on the two previous occasions they had won the title under him in 2014 and 2015.

"I feel relief more than anything else," said the 52-year-old New Zealander.

"It always is in these moments because you are willing it so much and that the players deliver what they are capable of.

"However, of course that is also mixed with a feeling of pride too."

Schmidt, who took over a demoralised Ireland side after the 2013 Six Nations following back-to-back European Cup wins coaching Leinster, pinpointed the characteristic that stood out for him with regard to the side's Slam.

"Their resilience," said Schmidt.

"To show the steel and commitment that they did when we went behind to France eight minutes from time in Paris (the first match) was outstanding and rounded off with the exceptional talent Johnny (Sexton) has of putting the ball between the uprights."

Schmidt, who will more than likely stand down after the 2019 World Cup and return to New Zealand, said this quality came to the fore when England turned on the pressure in the opening minutes of the second half where a score could have turned the tide of the match even though the Irish led 21-5 at half-time.

"The eight minutes after half-time today sums up the team," said Schmidt.

"Yes they can put together some great moments and score tries, perhaps the most we have ever done, but the resilience and the ability they showed to keep the English off the tryline in those minutes was exceptional.

"The defence was immense, we had to really fight our way out of the 22, there was a heck of a lot of character shown."

Best, who is still to agree a new contract which would take him through to the World Cup, said the end result on Saturday was the reward to Sexton for his sublime drop kick in stoppage time that rainy day in Paris.

"It is all about fine margins and we looked dead and buried," said Best.

"But how special was that kick from Johnny and the reward for that was this afternoon."

Schmidt said in more jocular fashion in a slightly subdued atmosphere that he hoped Best would be there in Japan in 2019.

"He is getting faster and faster on that zimmer frame," said Schmidt.

"It's something that could come to fruition sooner rather than later."

Read more on:    ireland  |  six nations  |  rory best  |  rugby

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