Rory Best has insisted Ireland must pull off their best ever Test match performance to claim a second win over New Zealand in as many weeks.
Ireland ended their 111-year wait for a maiden victory over the All Blacks with the 40-29 win in Chicago on November 5, and are now primed for a furious backlash in Dublin tonight.
Ireland captain Best knows full well the anger the back-to-back world champions will throw into their Dublin revenge mission - and has challenged his side to scale new heights in performance to pull off another victory.
“This week we’ll need a performance that’s up there with the best we’ve ever produced in an Ireland shirt,” said Best, who will win his 99th Test cap this weekend.
“It’s about us being consistent with our performance levels, that’s the most important element.
“Big one-off performances and then a drop-off isn’t acceptable any more with this group of players.”
All Blacks boss Steve Hansen has branded New Zealand the underdogs for Saturday’s Dublin rematch, and ever since Ireland have desperately battled to fend off any intimation they enter the contest as favourites.
Ulster hooker Best has continued that theme, claiming Ireland will not even discuss Hansen’s pre-match assertions when preparing to face the record-breaking All Blacks for the second time in 14 days.
“That tag is something for the media, for press conferences,” said Best, of Hansen installing Ireland as favourites.
“They are the number one team in the world for a reason.
“There won’t be any talk about favourites or underdogs in the changing room before the game.
“It’s about knowing we will really have to perform in order to beat a very, very good All Blacks team.
“We’ve put the pressure on our group of players through the coaches to make sure that the preparation we did two weeks ago won’t be enough.
“It’s got to be more, so we put that pressure on ourselves internally and we’ve made sure that everything we covered two weeks ago, we’ve covered that and more. That’s how we deal with it.
“Like I said, that tag of favourites and underdogs doesn’t really mean a whole lot to us, because we’re all about preparing us for this weekend, getting ready mentally for what will be an unbelievably tough challenge.”
New Zealand have been able to summon fit-again lock duo Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock for the Dublin showdown.
Retallick has recovered from concussion while Whitelock has finally beaten ankle trouble, to allow the All Blacks to restore one of the game’s most potent doubl
Best accepts that Ireland must raise their set-piece work even higher than in Chicago in order to counter the influence of New Zealand’s all-new second row pairing.
“They are going to be hurting a little bit and they will come after us there, in the set-piece,” said Best.
“We looked back on Chicago and we were fairly hard on the defensive elements in our performance.
“(Defence coach) Andy Farrell expects us to go out and deliver. He’s focused on our systems and how we stop these tries.
“For us we looked back at some of the scores, some of the breaks, there’s a lot of improvements we can make in our systems.
“We’ve had three weeks together now so we should be better than we were in Chicago.
“Defensively we should be better and we need to be better.”