Ireland Under-21 captain Stuart Philpott says his side still have "a lot to play for" at the IRB U-21 World Championship in France, despite Friday's defeat to the hosts.
The Irish got the tournament off to a disappointing start in the heat of Issoire when they went down 26-8 to a lively French team.
Having conceded two tries at the end of the first quarter, Ireland got back in contention with a 52nd-minute try from Philpott. Centre Conan Doyle also booted a penalty but late tries from French number eight Damien Chouly and winger Jacques Boussuge ended the Irish fightback.
Faced with a must-win clash against Argentina this evening (Stade Couturier, Cournon d'Auvergne, kick-off 4.00pm Irish time), the Irish still have plenty to play for.
Commenting on the French defeat, Philpott said: "I'm very proud of the boys. We showed so much heart, so much determination to come back at the French and get it to 14-8. We worked very, very hard.
"There was just that two-three minute period in the first half where they scored two tries and time just got to us at the end - defending for 10 or 15 minutes - the tries were always going to come after that."
Philpott was a member of the squad that finished ninth at last year's U-21 World Championship in South Africa, and reckons the class of 2006 can do better.
"The tournament's not over for us. It's just one defeat, we've still got four more games. Argentina are up next and that will be another tough game but we've picked ourselves up," said the Belfast Harlequins hooker.
"We're ready to go again. We'll plug away and finish as high as we can in the tournament."
Reflecting on the excellent spirit within the Irish squad, which was aided by a week-long training camp in Portumna before the trip south to France, Philpott admitted: "This is the best bunch of boys I've ever been involved with. We're so close, so tight, living in each other's pockets for so long.
"We're like brothers really. We work together, sleep together, eat together - we just work for each other and it's a real honour to be captain."