Ireland will “go anywhere and back” for captain Rory Best at the World Cup, pledges prop Tadhg Furlong.
Evergreen 37-year-old hooker Best will win his 121st cap at his fourth World Cup when Ireland square up to Scotland in Yokohama on Sunday.
Furlong admitted he still finds it hard to fathom that he watched Best battling it out for Ireland at the 2007 tournament, but cannot wait to pack down alongside the Ulster front-rower this weekend.
Best’s stewardship came under fire in the wake of Ireland’s record 57-15 defeat by England in August, but Furlong believes the combative hooker can steer his side in style in Japan.
“I couldn’t say enough about the man,” said Furlong of Best.
“He leads by his actions, he’s incredibly good for us as a group of players, and he represents us unbelievably well.
“His attention to detail, how he keeps his body right, for an ageing man of 37 you see him running around in pre-season and he’s as fit as a fiddle, honest to God.
“I’d go to anywhere and back with him. And I speak for the whole squad in terms of that.
“It’s kind of mad to think that Rory Best was playing in it (in 2007), and that’s the first one I can distinctly remember in some ways. But it probably just shows the longevity in him, perhaps that’s a nice way to put it!
“We had the four warm-up games and I thought throughout we got better and better as it went on. There’s no sort of easing into it is there, not that we thought like that against England. But it hits you where the standard’s at.
“I think we bounced pretty well off the back of that. To win in Cardiff is not easy, to beat Wales at home is not easy. So there was definitely confidence brewing in the squad as the week went on.
“Some of the work we’ve done throughout pre-season and the work we’ve done here has left us in a good place.
“I suppose I’m not all that experienced in this tournament, I’ve only played one World Cup match myself, so I think it’s just trying to stick to what we’ve worked on throughout the pre-season and into the warm-up games.
“You’re not reinventing the wheel, you’re trying to do your job as best you can really and block out as much external noise and distraction as you can to really focus on your performance.”
Lock James Ryan was 11 when Best was toiling away at the France World Cup in 2007, but now the Leinster kingpin is a genuine Test totem for Ireland.
Still only 23, Ryan has been thrust into a position of great trust, tasked with bossing Ireland’s lineout.
“I’m really excited, being here now it certainly feels that the game is fast approaching. It’s a mix of nerves and excitement heading into the game now,” said Ryan.
“I really enjoy playing alongside Hendy (Iain Henderson), he’s a real smart player, and I think he is really physical.
“Whenever he’s going forward, he’s such a big man everyone follows behind. He’s really intelligent in the lineout too.
“Hendy, Pete (O’Mahony) and myself will hopefully share the responsibility a bit in that area. And if Pete and myself see opportunities in the line we’ll feed that back to him. But as I said I really enjoy playing alongside him, he’s a super player.
“Absolutely I enjoy the responsibility of the lineout. I had a taste of it again last week, the last Wales game. So whenever I’m in that role I enjoy it.
“Certainly whenever Hendy, Pete and myself are there it’s about sharing responsibility in that regard, so we’re chipping in together. And combine that with the experience Besty has, I think when we get things right we can be strong in that area.”