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'Something special is going to happen with this team in the next few years'

CJ Stander believes Ireland have ‘turned a corner’ despite their defeat in Paris.

Rob Herring and CJ Stander at Stade de France.
Rob Herring and CJ Stander at Stade de France.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IRELAND AWOKE YESTERDAY morning from their fitful sleep with the frustration and disappointment only magnified.

“The feeling is definitely that we could have easily won the game,” said Tadhg Beirne on a Teams call before Andy Farrell’s men flew home from Paris.

Regrets? More than a few.

Ireland were well in the game coming towards half-time but made a strange decision to go down the line with a penalty rather than kicking the three points. France withstood the five-metre pressure, with a questionable breakdown penalty call going in their favour.

It was a massive psychological win for les Bleus and Ireland weren’t able to regather themselves at half-time.

“The game got away from us a little bit in the first half,” said CJ Stander yesterday, “so yeah, there were a lot of guys going into their shells.

“That happens in a game – in all the games I play. It can be one or two guys or sometimes even more and I think that happened yesterday.

“We went in at half time, Faz had a few harsh words with everyone and I think we came out and they scored just before and after half-time. It’s difficult to live with that confidence-wise.”

Indeed, Romain Ntamack’s 44th-minute try knocked Ireland into a state of mind where their error count continued to rise and rise – handling errors, lineout failings, missed chances in the 22. 

But Ireland insist all of this is very fixable ahead of the visit of Wales for the start of the Autumn Nations Cup in two weekends’ time.

“In terms of the lineout, they stole one or two crucial lineouts and that’s an area we’re always trying to work on and going forward, I’ve full faith in our lineout and our maul and I don’t think it’s an area that needs much fixing,” said Beirne.

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adhg-beirne-dejected-late-in-the-game A dejected Tadhg Beirne as Ireland were beaten. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It just didn’t go well at certain points on the night and that happens in games. We’ll just continue to focus on those areas and I’m sure we’ll come out the other side of it.”

A third-place finish for Farrell’s Ireland in this 2020 Six Nations wasn’t exactly unforeseen, with wins away to England and France always looking unlikely as this squad attempted to rebuild after a disastrous 2019.

These remain early days in the Farrell era but the head coach must work to ensure Ireland don’t allow the gap to the English and French open up any more.

Those within the camp are keen to underline that Ireland are moving in the right direction, even if there will be bumps along the road.

“This team has turned a corner for sure,” said Stander. “You can see it out there, guys enjoy going out there, we use the ball a bit more and guys are giving more passes and a few more offloads.

“We didn’t show it last night but in the Six Nations we actually created some space for ourselves and our set-piece did quite well in the Six Nations, probably not last night, but I’m proud of the team during the Six Nations.

“There are some great new players coming through, a lot of guys getting new caps so I’m very excited for them as well.

“If you look back at it, it’s a great learning curve for them now to get a game like this in a championship like this, not to finish with a win because they are going to learn more from this than if we had won. It would have been great but we’ll learn out of this and one day in a few years we’ll all look back and say. ‘That was the day everything changed’.

“I can’t ask other people to believe in this team but if you write it and they read it and they feel they can believe in this team, then I’d say hold onto it because something special is going to happen with this team in the next few years.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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