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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 12:53 GMT
Rory Best column
Rory Best is Ireland's hooker
Rory Best
Ireland hooker

Everybody is asking us about our morale and whether Ireland will be adopting a different approach this season.

There's no doubt that things are more low-key and while there is that quiet sense of trying to right what went wrong at the World Cup, it's not as if we are ranting on about it all the time.

Last year before the Six Nations, we were definitely looking ahead and thinking that we could win the Six Nations.

This year, nobody is looking beyond our opening match on Saturday against Italy, which is definitely a good thing.

Ireland hooker Rory Best
I was doing a lot of cycling in my rehab. I was starting to feel like Lance Armstrong

Ireland hooker Rory Best

There's a sense of quiet determination but we're all pretty measured and avoiding any danger of some sort of siege-mentality breaking out.

As a squad we met a couple of days before Christmas and drew a line in the sand in terms of World Cup at that stage.

Using the Genesis Report which examined our World Cup failure, we split into groups of seven or eight and talked about what we felt we had done wrong as players.

We got plenty of flak after the World Cup but if we're being honest, we have to acknowledge that a lot of it - if not all of it - was deserved.

The aim was to put the World Cup to bed so that we would be in Six Nations mode when we met up again in mid-January.

When we got together again, it was strange not having my brother Simon around the camp after his health problems at the World Cup.

Since I've been in the Irish squad, there was only one occasion when he wasn't in the mix which was after he had broken his ankle.

He's fully supportive. He's coming down on Saturday and while he misses it, I'm in contact with him at least every other day.

I've talked to him about the squad and filled him in on all the craic but I've tried not to go on too much about the game itself, because that's what he misses most of all.

Simon and Rory Best at home on their farm in Co Armagh
Simon Best with his younger brother Rory at home on the farm
He's off the tablets now and the main issue that he hasn't had any other similar problems.

He's doing a small bit of running although nothing near the intensity that you would need to play rugby.

It's probably going to be another six weeks or so before he has any kind of inkling about how things are progressing in terms of his sporting future.

From a personal point of view, it's great to be on the eve of another Six Nations start - particularly after I thought my chances of being involved were pretty slim after my ankle injury on Boxing Day.

I'll be honest. When I turned the ankle in the game against Leinster at the RDS I thought: 'That's my Six Nations chances gone'.

Boxing Day was a Wednesday and I didn't get scanned until the following Monday but I realised by that stage that it was settling down well.

Of course, it was always going to be a race against time but thanks to the efforts of Ulster staff Phil Morrow, Jonny Davis and particularly Gareth Robinson, I got there in the end.

I was doing a lot of cycling. I remember one week I did about eight cycles and I was starting to feel like Lance Armstrong.

I was coming in every morning and up on the board would be my rehab instructions for the day.

When you are on the pitch every day, you often think that you wouldn't mind a break but after cycling so much during that period, I couldn't wait to get back on to the field.

The crucial week for me was in the run-up to our Heineken Cup game against Gloucester.

To have any chance of being involved against Italy, I had to get back for that game.

Initially, I wasn't actually named in the squad but it was intimated to me that if I came through the four training sessions that week unscathed that I would be involved against Gloucester.

The game went well enough on the Sunday and I headed down to Dublin to join up with the Irish boys a day later.

As regards the selection earlier this week, it was always going to be tight for the hooker position even after Jerry (Flannery) got his suspension.

Geordan Murphy's party-piece is jumping out of cupboards but he's been a bit quiet so far

Bernard Jackman has been in good form for Leinster but I was always reasonably hopeful because I felt had played fairly well for Ulster this season even though we were struggling as a team.

All the same on Monday night, I was almost trying to avoid Eddie (O'Sullivan) so I wouldn't give him the chance to tell me that I wasn't going to be picked.

After getting the nod, I was able to head home in good spirits on Tuesday night as we had Wednesday off from Ireland duty.

I wouldn't be doing that every week but it was nice to get out of the hotel for a bit.

Within the camp, Donncha O'Callaghan remains the clown prince with Denis Leamy invariably the butt of most of his jokes.

Geordan Murphy's party-piece is jumping out of cupboards but he's been a bit quiet on it so far and hopefully saving all his energies to score a few tries against the Italians.

Marcus 'Lazarus' Horan also has to fend off a bit of good-natured banter for the way that he invariably hits the turf in matches as if he has been shot.

Newcomers to the squad are often the victim of the odd prank but our prop Cian Healy is such a big lump of a fellow that nobody has dared to go near him just yet.

Rory Best was talking to BBC Sport NI's John Haughey

Pick the Ireland XV
18 Jan 06 |  Internationals
Ireland v Italy (Sat)
31 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union


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