Rugby

'They Haven't Had Many Bad Experiences, They Don't Think Anything Is Impossible'

'They Haven't Had Many Bad Experiences, They Don't Think Anything Is Impossible'

Rory Best has been here before. He's heard phrases like 'building block' uttered about previous big, one-off performances.

The Ulster captain is yet to make a decision on his future with the province but whatever his choice - another year or retirement - he wants to ensure that the narrow defeat to Leinster in the Champions Cup quarter-final becomes more than a shell in their ghost housing estate of promising displays.

"I think if we just assume that because we have a young squad, we pushed Leinster close on Saturday, that the natural progression is that we’ll eventually get a bit better, we’ll end up just falling away again," said Best at a Specsavers event last week.

We need to look at how do we get better, how do we make an improvement, how do we see more from this team and it’s important that it isn’t taken for granted.

That’s probably the job of the coaches but they’re young coaches, reasonably inexperienced coaches. Some of the players, the likes of Hendy and certainly Cavey and myself, we’ve been to a lot of play-off games with Ulster and it’s important that we impart our experiences to the squad and say, ‘don’t assume it’s going to happen because it won’t.’

Very quickly you go from a team that narrowly lost to Leinster to where we were 12 months ago where we lost away to Cardiff and if we didn’t win most of our games in the run in, we weren’t going to qualify for Europe and that’s the reality of it.

You don’t want to be the Grim Reaper in it all - it is important to look back with pride - but it is important that we find a way to get better but it wasn’t good enough.

For many of that Ulster team, big game experience of the Aviva was non-existent prior to the quarter-final. The stadium never lost its appear for Best but it can be easy to forget that others have not played there as many times as he has.

"We even had moments where Andy Warwick was asking me 'What's the pitch like? What studs should I wear?' and Mikey Lowry was asking me what the atmosphere is like when you come out," said Best.

"We went through the team and I think there was a third of our team that hadn't played in the Aviva, and even then [with some] they may have [only] played All-Ireland League.

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"We kind of said it'll be one of two things: it'll either be a massive distraction and boys will buckle or the excitement and the big game mentality in some of these boys will come through and thankfully for us it was the latter.

"It's really encouraging that the bigger the game this season, the bigger the performance has been."

Inexperience isn't all bad, it doesn't carry the baggage which may weigh down a more seasoned player.

"The great thing is that when you have young players, you have massive energy and we've had it with Ireland as well, because they haven't had that many bad experiences, they actually don't think anything is impossible. We've to beat Leinster at the Aviva? No problem. Whereas guys like myself and Cavey and Hendy we know how difficult it's going to be.

"They did they know how difficult it's going to be but they have never been steamrolled by Leinster so they don't have that fear factor of going up against the best team in Europe. They just think 'we have class players so why wouldn't we perform?' and that's really refreshing."

Above: Rory Best launches Specsavers Audiologists’ ‘Don’t Suffer in Silence’ campaign, that encourages Irish adults to take a more proactive approach to their hearing health. New Research reveals that almost half of Irish adults worry about losing their hearing. Rory is an advocate of proactive hearing health, gets tested whenever he suffers from hearing symptoms and knows first-hand what it's like to live with family members who have hearing loss.

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan & Sportsfile

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PJ Browne
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