Ruthless Schmidt gives Ireland mental toughness, insists Best

Joe Schmidt’s “ruthless” selection policy has forced Ireland to shed the mental weaknesses that were costing victories, according to Rory Best.

Hooker Best admitted Ireland may well have failed to close out Saturday’s 26-23 victory over Australia in previous campaigns.

The Ulster front-rower conceded Ireland suffered “mental switch-offs” in a 32-15 defeat to Australia and the last-gasp 24-22 All Blacks loss in November 2013.

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The unwell head coach Schmidt delayed medical treatment to guide Ireland to their first autumn Test series clean sweep for eight years on Saturday, before being rushed to hospital to have his appendix removed.

“The pleasing thing is that compared to where we were 12 months ago is that mentally, we stayed in,” said Best.

“If you look at it 12 months ago we went mistake after mistake, mental switch-offs if you like, but this time round in a similar position, we didn’t.

“But this year we stuck to our system, we came off the line, we hit and stuck, and we really put pressure on Australia.

“Ultimately they were the ones under pressure at the end of the match because they were the ones who had to get points in some shape or form.

“We put pressure on them, everyone stuck to their job and the big thing for us is that no one threw in the towel mentally.

“There are a lot of great coaches out there, but Joe is certainly one of the best I’ve worked with.

“He just expects a high level from you: and if you don’t toe the line and you don’t come up to his fairly tight standards then he finds someone else that will.

“It’s ruthless, but that’s where you want to be. This is a ruthless level we’re playing at: we’re playing the best teams in the world, the best players in the world.

“You go back to 12 months ago, you make one small error and you lose a game. On Saturday we didn’t and that is ingrained in us now that you stick to the system.

“You trust the guy to your right and the guy to your left.”

Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe claimed the tries for the hosts, with Johnny Sexton slotting 16 points from the tee.

Australia outscored the home side three tries to two, with Nick Phipps claiming a brace and Bernard Foley also crossing.