IT COULD HAVE been worse.
Ireland false-started this year’s Six Nations, conceding three tries in the opening 30 minutes of the tournament. But they could have thrown in the towel, failed to respond by re-taking the lead or let Scotland kill them off, score a fourth try and put five points between the sides on the Championship table rather than just three.
The reaction to the early failings is the positive spin. And that’s what Ireland are holding on to for confidence ahead of what promises to be another bruising outing against Italy.
A positive attitude is essential in a collision sport, but on weeks like this it has to be somewhat manufactured within a camp so that the see-saw of confidence can be quickly levelled off.
“It’s not healthy,” says Keith Earls.
“Rugby isn’t healthy for the mind. It’s up and down. You could be on top of the world one week and then you’re back down. You’re representing your country which is always massive, you know the whole nation is watching you and the people that travel and then when you have a poor start, you come so close and then you lose it’s extremely disappointing.
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“Especially looking back on it again, we had unbelievable opportunities and we beat ourselves. We let Scotland beat us.”
The confidence to start that comeback in Rome comes from, not only the November exploits or the two titles in the last three years, but from how they played Scotland with a 16-point handicap. The big regret will remain the defensive issues that allowed Vern Cotter’s men build that lead and that the efforts made didn’t bear fruit any sooner.