THE ABRASIONS, BOTH mental and physical, of Saturday’s home loss to England will sting and linger for some time yet.
However, today was the day to get back on the horse in Carton House. Back in full training, it was time to refocus and reset. Time for big men to hone in on precise targets.
After his head coach spoke at length about ‘physicality’ in the aftermath of the crushing 20-32 loss to England, ‘accuracy’ was the key word of the day for Tadhg Furlong.
“We want to control what we can control,” says the tighthead, “as a player, especially as a front-five, you always want to bring that physical element to the game.
Furlong at Carton House today. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
“As long as you can control that and still deliver on accuracy… sometimes when you go out too hot-headed, it affects your performance. I think everyone is just focusing on trying to be as accurate as we can.”
Ordinarily a bright and genial figure in a press conference room, the Wexford man’s short answers and mostly dour expression spoke volumes of the hurt within the squad after beginning the year with defeat.They will go to Edinburgh not only feeling the need to win in order to keep their title defence alive, but to prove a point.
They will aim to prove it clinically, though, not furiously.
“Work harder and get stuff nailed down. Try to be more accurate. It doesn’t mean that we’ll go out absolutely banging our chests. We have to start accurately. You saw when we weren’t on our game two years ago what happened over there, they had a such a lead. We have to be composed and accurate.”
Furlong was just one of three straight-talking, hard-edged, forward-looking front row men offered up for media duty in Maynooth today. Scrum coach Greg Feek was able to veer a little bit further off the hymn sheet, but the sentiment was similar.
A response is demanded of this Ireland team, but cool heads too.
It wasn’t mentioned in Carton House, but the theory that such a loss will benefit Ireland by taking them back under the radar ahead of the World Cup was not one the former All Black was ready to get his head around.
Scrum coach Greg Feek. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
“Some people might say this is a good thing. It’s never a good thing for us to lose, nobody likes losing and no one likes having tries scored against them either,” said Feek, and a later query about the benefit of a team playing with the chip on their shoulder brought the idea across his lips again.
“Over the years, you talk about ‘a loss can be a good thing,’ but you still have to focus… you can’t be getting all overworked and overemotional about it.
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“You have to come back to getting the accuracy right, your preparation right. Also, backing ourselves.