North-south void has been filled, says Ireland captain Rory Best after Australia victory
Irish win 27-24 to become first northern hemisphere side since England in 2003 to beat all three southern hemisphere teams in a calendar year
Ireland captain Rory Best says beating Australia 27-24 and other results going the northern hemisphere countries way suggests the void people had spoken about between them last year has been filled.
The Irish became the first Northern Hemisphere side since England in 2003 to beat all three southern hemisphere teams in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in a calendar year.
And 34-year-old Best added he was extremely proud as a patchwork Ireland side, who lost three key backs by half-time to be replaced by players who had to play out of position, had somehow eked out a victory.
The Irish had seen a 17-0 advantage evaporate with Australia taking the lead after an hour only for Keith Earls to grab a third try for Ireland and Paddy Jackson convert it.
Watch: Ireland v Australia highlights
“It’s obviously a pretty big achievement to do that and with so many players who have played in those games is a good sign of our ability and depth,” said Best.
“Especially after the World Cup last year when it was said there was a big void between north and south [all four semi-finalists were from the southern hemisphere].
“We feel we can compete with all the best teams now and since [coach] Joe [Schmidt] has come in it has been about consistency and we feel we have shown that consistency.”
Best, who has done his chances of captaining the British and Irish Lions on the daunting tour of New Zealand next year no harm at all, said he had been especially proud to win his 100th cap.
He was, though, quite surprised to hear that his father had been overcome with emotion before kick-off.
“I hope you have got my father being emotional on tape because I haven’t seen it in 34 years,” joked Best, who walked out in front of the 51,000 spectators accompanied by his two young children.
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“We talked about a squad ethic and to lose guys [Jonathan Sexton and Robbie Henshaw] early in the week and then [flanker] Sean [O’Brien] on the morning of the match you just hope the replacements will step up.
“The changes in personnel you make during the game you ultimately ask them the players for a real want and desire and they did that today.
“The good thing is it wasn’t perfect but it was good enough. For me as a day for 100 caps it is really, really special. Even more so because they are a magical bunch of guys to have as teammates.”
Schmidt, who had an immediate impact on an out of sorts squad when he took over in 2013 winning two successive Six Nations titles in 2014/15, said the victory was special.
“Certainly for me since I’ve been associated with the Ireland team this is one of the proudest days,” said the 51-year-old New Zealander.
“They have shown immense character, Kieran Marmion, who is a scrum half and had to play on the wing – well his tackle on David Pocock was phenomenal.
“Simon Zebo said it was like a creche out there and he felt like the old guy.
“It says a lot about how he looks after kids because they were all over the place.”
Schmidt, who guided Leinster to two European Cup trophies before taking the Ireland post, said it spoke volumes for the squad that Josh van der Flier, the replacement in the starting XV for O’Brien, had been named man of the match.
“I think we got the edge because the boys up front did a great job,” said Schmidt of the scrum.
“When you lose a player like Sean O’Brien so shortly before the match and his replacement is man of the match that is just what you want.”
Watch: Ireland coach Joe Schmidt