IRELAND FAILED to effectively prepare for the humidity in Japan during the Rugby World Cup, according to former captain Rory Best.
The now-retired Ireland international told 2fm’s Game On explained that while a pre-tournament training camp in Portugal helped their preparations, the setting failed to replicate those Joe Schmidt’s team faced in the Far East.
Ireland went into the World Cup as one of the favourites to lift the trophy, following a year in which the team rose to no.1 in the world rankings.
But a shock group stage defeat to hosts Japan, coupled with a heavy loss to fellow favourites New Zealand in the quarter-finals ended up being the last memories from a disappointing tournament for the Irish.
That heavy loss to the All-Blacks marked Best’s last appearance for Ireland, with the Craigavon star hanging his boots up soon after.
"People want definite answers as to what went wrong, but there just isn't one," Best told 2fm's Game On.
"We nailed the heat in Portugal but we possibly underestimated the effect the humidity would have, not on our conditioning but on our ability to handle the ball," he continued.
"I'm not big into gimmicks and when I heard about Wales were using baby oil on the ball, I thought it was just a nonsense - until I got out there and suddenly realised.
"I was drying my hands to throw the ball in but by the time you picked the ball up your hands were soaking because you were sweating so much.
"I think we could maybe have trained with dry balls to get confidence, but also trained with the ball soaking wet, to work out how our skill level could be improved by doing this.
"At the start we used an older ball which was more slippery but that tailed off a bit as the pressure of the games came on and you wanted to make sure you had enough confidence for them.
"I think, ultimately, we should have just been going right through thinking 'if these are the worst conditions we are performing in, then it is great because the games will be easy'."
Best suggested an earlier arrival in Japan prior to the tournament could have helped address come of the issues around the humid conditions.
"It takes time to get used to the conditions and it was only as the tournament went on that our handling got better," he added.
"You're trying to balance being away from home for that extra length of time versus getting your preparations right. You have to find out what is right for your squad.
"Definitely, whatever we could have done to make the handling a bit more appropriate... maybe being out there earlier might have made a difference but you are dealing in hindsight."