‘I think it’s time lads grew up and know what’s expected of them’ – Sean O’Brien

‘I hope all 23 guys in that changing room are devastated’ – Rob Kearney

Sean O’Brien offloads during Ireland’s narrow defeat against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Sean O’Brien offloads during Ireland’s narrow defeat against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

 

It’s a different hurt to last week’s hurt because of what the team was able to recover from the wreckage of Australia. But those last minutes, they still hurt. O’Brien shakes his head in anger. Beside him Rob Kearney’s dark skin sags, the beating worn like a shroud.

“I hope all 23 guys in that changing room are devastated,” says Kearney. “That’s been the worst finish to a game in my career. I think we got a little bit tired. There was a lot of intensity in that game, a lot of tired bodies. Fair play champion sides . . .

Looking good
“It was looking good at half-time but you can’t go into your shell. I think we were a little bit guilty of that. We had to come out in the second half, keep fighting and keep looking for scores. We only scored three in the second half and we needed more. That’s probably where we lost the game.”

O’Brien’s reaction is more visceral. He’ll squeeze out the good in it and bottle it for next year’s the Six Nations Championship. But the bad, small as it was but enough to encourage the All Blacks, is almost overwhelming him and he doesn’t trust his words or his thoughts. There is a tone to the flanker’s answers that places his mood closer to exasperation or simmering frustration than disappointment.

“Yeah I’d say I’m angry,” he says. “Yeah we should have trusted each other there in the last couple of minutes . . . Not getting set early enough, not coming off the line on him again . . . We just needed to want it that little bit more for the last few minutes of the game. That’s where you should be trying even harder. I’d say a lot of the lads will be angry with the way it finished.

“We had the ball there at 79.30 (in the 80th minute). To lose that way is very disappointing. I think lads will have to have a good look at their game and assess where they are and what we did well and what we didn’t do so well and I think we can improve on that performance today.

“We were obviously annoyed after last week . . . I think it’s time lads grew up and know what’s expected of them when they put on an Irish jersey. That performance today we can be proud of it but it still wasn’t good enough.”

It was a high-tempo game and it was much better than the Wallabies but digging at O’Brien to see light in the defeat is not the way he is thinking.

“Obviously we were (tired) . . . the pace of that game,” he says. “It’s one of the quickest games I’ve ever played. I’m sure there were tired lads alright. But that’s not an excuse. They weren’t tired were they?”

But it was a big step up from last week? “Yeah, we couldn’t get much worse could we,” he adds before finally acknowledging this dilemma at putting his finger on what went wrong. “There’s loads of things going through my head at the minute,” he adds. “I can’t say for sure.”

Set a benchmark
Kearney is more defiant. He believes he didn’t learn much from the match but that the team did set a benchmark and, if in the Six Nations, they can measure up to the first hour of the game they are in good shape. He also senses a weaker constitution from those asking him questions and he’s reminded that Ireland’s best performance against the All Blacks had the same end result, defeat.

“It’s disappointing but that is maybe a bit of a pessimistic attitude to take to it,” he says. “We were very close to winning. Okay, our last few minutes we came short and another few per cent from guys and we could have closed them out.

“But maybe you are trying to insinuate that if we play our very best rugby then we won’t beat the best in the world. I think you are wrong.”