Ireland captain Paul O’Connell insists it is up to each individual in the squad to lift themselves after Saturday’s disappointing RBS 6 Nations defeat to Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
Despite going down 23-16, Joe Schmidt’s charges find themselves still very much in contention for the title, lying second to new leaders England ahead of a fascinating final round next Saturday.
Only scoring difference separates England (+37), Ireland (+33) and Wales (+12) at the top of the table, with the Welsh travelling to Italy next weekend, Ireland making the trip to Murrayfield and England hosting France.
Speaking after Ireland’s first defeat since February of last year, Paul O’Connell said: “Guys are very disappointed but it’s not up to Joe or me or anyone to lift anyone else – it’s up to individuals to lift themselves. We’ve another chance to play for Ireland next week, a chance at a Championship.
“We’ll look at this game obviously, with a view to helping us next week and we will get into preparation mode for Scotland. I don’t think there is going to be any difficulty in lifting ourselves (for Murrayfield). One thing about losing is that you just want to get out there and play again and I’m sure that’s the way the boys will be when they wake up tomorrow.”
A galling statistic for O’Connell is that Ireland lost four of their own lineout throws, including two at vital stages in the first and second half as they looked to build pressure from close-in mauls.
Knock-ons just metres from the Welsh line and ruck infringements dented Ireland’s comeback bid and after an O’Connell break led to a strength-sapping 32 phases of attack play, the well-drilled Welsh defence made sure Ireland came away empty handed.
Reflecting on some of those moments where the momentum shifted back to Wales, he conceded: “We lost a few balls and that was disappointing. They defended really well and got Luke Charteris up at the front (of the lineout) and nicked a few off us. They did to us what we did to England two weeks ago.
“It’s just a really disappointing place to lose the ball. To lose the ball then to give away a penalty to allow them to clear their lines was disappointing, and a big momentum changer.”
The Munster lock, who won his 100th Ireland cap in Cardiff, felt Wales had learned from the mistakes which cost them an opening round win over England last month. They produced an incredible defensive display to hold onto their lead, amassing 250 tackles with tireless lock Charteris credited with 31 of those.
“Wales are an excellent defensive side. Obviously they had a bit of momentum coming into the game having beaten France in Paris two weeks ago. They probably learned a lot from that first game against England, learned a lot about themselves and really improved,” added O’Connell.
“They were at home. We had beaten England at home two weeks ago and they were really set for that defensive effort. When you get into their 22 and have a crack and you defend like they did, it is a big lift for them. Unfortunately when they got into our 22 and had a crack, they got over the line (with Scott Williams’ try).”