Boris Johnson may have found the statements of rugby player Rory Best a difficult verbal treat. At a time when there is no more heated debate at home than Brexit, the World Cup in Japan is “a great opportunity” to show the world that things can be done together, 37-year-old Best said shortly before the start. Tournament. Best is Northern Ireland – and the proud captain of the Irish national team, which refers to the entire island as an “All-Island team”.
The “Men in Green” has also topped the world rankings for two weeks. And even though their informational value is controversial among experts, Ireland is one of the favorites in the world tournament. But Best & Co. are pursuing more than a sporting dream — they also have a political agenda.
“It was always about the game”
Best held the position of hooker, one of the most dangerous in rugby, and he even dared to do something off the pitch: in the 2016 Brexit vote, the trained farmer advocated staying in the European Union, and in Japan he advocated for unity. campaigned for. “The problem with Brexit is that no one really knows what’s going on now. We don’t even have an exit date,” he said.
Irish selection, however, insisted Best, had already disregarded political problems at the time of the Northern Ireland conflict (1969–1998): “It was always about the game and about playing together and pulling together.” Was.” While the Government of Ireland Act “divided the island into north and south in 1920, the rugby federation – like its allies from hockey, by the way – simply did not go along with the division.
Although Dublin is the traditional home ground, Belfast was and is played regularly (until 1953, most recently in 2007). The common hymn “Call of Ireland”, sung since 1995, highlights the harmony of the “brothers”, and the coats of arms of all four historical Irish provinces can be seen on the association’s logo. And at World Cup games, the “Flag of Ulster” is shown in addition to the Irish tricolor.
This hasn’t brought the Irish very far in the World Championships, with the quarter-finals at the latest it was always finishing. But this time it may be different, the team around 37-year-old veteran Best has been going through a lot of ups and downs for almost three years now. The first victory over the almost unbeatable “All Blacks” from New Zealand in November 2016 was successful, with the Irish winning all games in the prestigious Six Nations tournament (“Grand Slam”) in 2018.
The first home win against world champions New Zealand came in November 2018. As a result, Verbinder Johnny Sexton was only the second Irishman to be voted “World Rugby Player of the Year”, while head coach Joe Schmidt was named “Trainer of the Year”.
The Irish showed their full class at 27:3 against Scotland at the start of the World Cup on Sunday. Other rivals in Group A are Japan, Russia and Samoa – a place in the quarter-finals should not be a problem for United Irish. But New Zealand could wait there. “I think we are better equipped than ever,” said Captain Best. The team benefits greatly from world class players like Sexton. But they have their greatest strength: the collective.
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