After such a narrow defeat to the All Blacks in the second test of a gruelling series in Christchurch on Saturday, the Irish squad will have been given Sunday off to recover, though Jamie Heaslip and Keith Earls are definitely out of the final test.
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Starting on Monday, they will analyse a performance that saw many improvements from the massacre at Eden Park. The margin of victory was reduced by 29 points, the scrum had the All Blacks in all kinds of bother, a vast improvement at the breakdown created a solid platform from which to attack, and a cohesive defensive display that was only breached once. However, despite coming so agonisingly close to a positive result, the fact remains that our poor record against New Zealand continues, and for the Irish captain that is what really rankles.
“I’m gutted all right” O’Driscoll told reporters after the final whistle. We got back on level terms and to concede the way we did was disappointing. We spoke about the jersey and concentrating on our own game, but the scoreline still says an All Black win”.
Nigel Owens decision to award the home side a penalty which resulted in field position and ultimately Carter’s winning drop goal was contentious to say the least. The Welshman pinged Ireland for wheeling the scrum, despite enjoying supremacy in this area for large parts of the game. Richie McCaw, himself no stranger to playing on the boundaries of the game conceded “We were relieved he gave the penalty to us. We were happy to take that”. Kidney, as is his wont, would not get drawn on the issue. “We will have a look at it this week, but will be focusing on what we can control” was as far as he would indulge on the topic.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will be relieved to avoid making history, and will be looking to finish the series in style next week. History indicates Ireland have one big performance, and that is where the opportunity lies in achieving that coveted win. Hansen believes that this was there for the taking for Ireland because his charges played below-par, something he doesn’t envisage in Waikato. “The big thing tonight is that we have beaten an Irish side that has, probably played as good as they could have. We didn’t play great”.