As a rather distasteful war of words continues between former Australian international Tim Horan and the Irish management in the wake of Ireland’s 15-6 triumph over the Wallabies, his fellow countryman Matt Burke has been more magnanimous in defeat.
Burke, who racked up 878 international points over an 11-year career with Australia, admitted the better team won last Saturday and credited the Irish for their spirited performance.
Speaking on Heineken’s ‘This is the Game’ series, the former Newcastle Falcons fullback was critical of Australia for the lack of self-belief they displayed in Auckland.
“Our guys just got outplayed, no doubt about it. The Irish guys were out there, they were passionate.
“Our guys talked about the respect factor of perhaps not respecting Ireland but I think it was more a case of not respecting their ability to hold onto the ball and score tries.”
Having beaten the All-Blacks en route to an impressive Tri-Nations victory in the weeks before the World Cup, the Australian public had high hopes for their team going into the World Cup, a competition they traditionally save their best rugby for.
However, last week’s shock result looks likely to render Australia runners-up in Group C, landing them a harder draw in the quarter finals and raising questions about the team’s pedigree.
With the media down under looking for someone to blame, Burke joked that Australians were content to point the finger at two Kiwis - coach Robby Deans and outhalf Quade Cooper, who was born in Tokoroa, New Zealand.
“That’s our saving grace, it wasn’t our fault, it was the coach’s fault wasn’t it. I saw Cooper’s grandmother coming out in support of him the other day, that’s about the only support he’s getting in Auckland at the moment.”
Former Irish centre Rob Henderson also praised the Irish effort at Eden Park and suggested that Ireland have the best chance of any "home nations" side of making it to the World Cup final.
Henderson, who earned 32 caps for Ireland and was part of the 2001 Lions tour of Australia, highlighted the leaders in the Irish pack as crucial on the day.
“It was a great performance, reminiscent of the way we played against England in the Six Nations. I thought O’Connell was outstanding. So was Cian Healy in the front row - he destroyed the Australian pack. You could name anyone from 1 to 15 in the Ireland team."