Ireland hooker Rory Best has backed his Ulster team-mate Declan Fitzgerald to shine on his international debut against New Zealand today.
Test bows do not come much more difficult than facing the world champions in their own backyard, but Best has no qualms about scrumming down with Fitzgerald against the All Blacks’ front three.
Best has been impressed by the tighthead prop’s fearless nature at provincial level and has no doubt he is ready to take that up a notch against the likes of Tony Woodcock and Owen Franks.
“They have a lot of experience, we have Declan coming through. He knows that it will be a massive step up again,” said Best.
“I’ve played a lot of rugby alongside Declan, right from underage groups through to Ulster.
“It will be a massive day for him but that is what Test debuts are all about and there will be no bigger day for him than this.
“It takes a lot to ruffle Deccie. He has been through a lot to get to this place but hopefully he seizes it with both hands. He is a quality player.”
Neil Jenkins says Wales will have “no excuses” if they do not achieve their goal of ending a 25-year wait for a victory over a Tri Nations team away from home when they open their three-match series against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday.
The 22-21 win over the Wallabies in the third-place play-off game in Rotorua at the 1987 World Cup was the last time Wales managed to beat one of the three southern hemisphere super-powers on foreign soil.
Jenkins now believes the time has come for a change in fortune.
“The players have had a good week to prepare and we are in pretty good shape. There are no excuses for Saturday night,” said Jenkins.
“We did pretty well at the World Cup, and very well in winning the Grand Slam, but this is the next step for any side, winning in the southern hemisphere.
“It is an opportunity for us, but it isn’t won on paper.”