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TO BE best in class you have to treat every outing as if it's your last.

That's the theme Declan Kidney has brought into the Ireland camp since he succeeded Eddie Sullivan in the head coach hotseat - and it's what is driving his squad towards Grand Slam glory.

If Jerry Flannery, Paddy Wallace, Jamie Heaslip and Tomas O'Leary didn't know it before, they do now - as does everyone involved on the playing side.

Kidney admits that they have done nothing wrong but they are out of the side for the first time in this RBS Six Nations championship.

Rory Best is one of those who benefits and, having waiting patiently for his opportunity, he will replace Flannery in the No2 shirt for Saturday's Murrayfield showdown with Scotland.

"Whenever you're talking about an Irish game a chance is a chance, no matter how the team is going," said Best.

"You're very lucky to get that jersey and to get a start - and you have to treat it like that.

"It is something special and I know Declan's a big fan of saying you treat it like it's your last. I think whenever you come from the bench, you have to take that mentality - that it is your last - because you've been on the other side and you know you are lucky to get a start.

"And you have to do everything you can to perform and do the jersey justice."

The Ulster skipper, who is regularly name-checked by Kidney as one of the squad leaders, is clear on what the new boss has instilled in a group that could be ready to fulfil their promise.

Best said: "He's brought the confidence we had two years ago, he's instilled it in us again and you can see it.

Boys are a lot more buoyant around the place.

"He's made us believe in ourselves again, which for the past year and a half wasn't really there. When results and performances don't go your way, it's hard to be buoyant about the place and be happy in yourself.

"Declan's brought that in, he's kept telling us we're a good team and a good bunch of players and I suppose now that we've got a couple of results under our belts, you can feel the difference.

"It's a good place to be now, the Irish camp. It's Declan's way. Every coach is different.

You have to look at his track record, it works.

"He's won two European Cups with Munster which for many years people thought would never be done.

You have to appreciate what he's done."

For Best, the last five weeks have been about going about his business as well as possible in Ireland training and on Magners League duty for Ulster, hoping to do enough to nudge the test management team.

He has been unfortunate in that Flannery has been in top form during this championship and the Limerick man can also feel hard done by.

But such has been the nature of the competition between the duo in recent times - there's so little between them.

"Everyone wants to start but unfortunately there are only 15 positions on the pitch and there's only one that I personally can fill - that's just the way it is," Best shrugged.

"It's a good thing from an Irish point of view that there is such competition for places there. But at the same time if you don't get the call, like me in the first three games, you just have to be patient and bide your time.

"If you get a run-out with 20 minutes to go, you do everything in your power from the team's point of view, to keep driving the whole thing forward.

"I know Declan made it very clear to us they were all very tight calls and I suppose there is that extra little bit of pressure you put on yourself to perform.

"The team needs it. We've been going well and you need to get to the level of performance everyone else is at and then bring something to the team as well because that's why the changes are made."

For many on the outside, it seems it's a contest between Flannery's deadly accurate lineout throw and passion around the field and Best's top-class scrummaging.

Best doesn't believe it's that simple but he does admit starting life being shunted between prop and hooker - plus the shedding of a couple of kilos and better handling and throwing skills - are now reaping benefits for him.

The 26-year-old added: "At the time I was saying, 'I wish they'd make up their mind where I can play' but in hindsight it's been very beneficial to my game."


SKY'S THE LIMIT Rory Best is looking forward to helping Ireland capture the elusive Grand Slam; HEALTHY RIVALRY Best & Flannery regularly swap No2 shirt; BEST MAN Rory in Ulster scrum and, below, in Irish green
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 12, 2009

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