Devastated Ireland to ‘kick on’

Tue, 26 Nov 2013 17:43
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Flank Sean O'Brien says Ireland’s performance against the All Blacks on Sunday can be used as a building block for success in next year’s Six Nations.

Flank Sean O'Brien says Ireland’s performance against the All Blacks on Sunday can be used as a building block for success in next year’s Six Nations.

The Irish pushed the world champions to the limit in their best performance of Joe Schmidt's short reign and led 22-17 before replacement Ryan Crotty touched down and Aaron Cruden coolly slotted the match-winning conversion in the final play of the game.

The last-gasp converted try denied Ireland their first ever win over New Zealand and saw the All Blacks become the first team in the professional era to complete a perfect season with 14 wins from 14 Test matches.

O'Brien, who produced a man of the match performance, said Ireland must reach the standards of their super-charged display against the All Blacks on a consistent basis.

"It's massively important [to build on the performance]. We need to look forward now, not think about all the negatives and if we bring that intensity and workrate that we had at the start of the game into the Six Nations, then we'll be in a good place," he explained.

"If we can take a bit and get a percent better then it'll improve the whole system. We've set standards in the past, but we've to make sure we kick on from there and make sure that's there every day we go out, come Six Nations."

It was O'Brien's 30th cap and he has been frustrated with Ireland's lack of consistency in recent seasons, and the failure to follow up on standout performances like those against England (2011 Six Nations), Australia (2011 World Cup), New Zealand (2012 second Test) and Wales (2013 Six Nations).

Now is the time, according to the Tullow man, for the players to stand up and be counted and know what is expected of them when they play at this level.

"I don't think it was beyond our expectations at all," he said of Ireland's blistering start against the All Blacks, during which Conor Murray, Rory Best and Rob Kearney all touched down inside 18 minutes.

"We knew that if we went at them and kept the ball and brought them through phases, we were going to score. You know it's a thing we spoke about all week, they're only a team at the end of the day. Obviously a very good team but I think we knew that once we had the ball, we were always a threat to them.

"I certainly wasn't surprised about the pace we started at and the way we went about our business that we were scoring tries. But, look, we'll have to move on and learn from this.

"You know, I think it's time lads grew up and got to know what's expected of them when they pull on an Irish jersey.

"I think lads will have to have a good look at their game and assess where we are and what we did well and what we didn't do so well.

"We can improve on that performance. We were obviously annoyed after the Australia game and that fuelled the fire. That performance, we can be proud of it. But you know it still wasn't good enough."

Ireland host Scotland in the opening round of their 2014 Six Nations campaign in February.