Ireland may have collected five points following a 26-16 bonus-point victory over Italy, but the post-match dressing room described by Dave Kilcoyne spoke of a disappointment akin to defeat.
As much as Italy played well for periods of yesterday’s game at Stadio Olimpico, Ireland played their part in making this Guinness Six Nations contest closer than it has been for six years and loosehead prop Kilcoyne said the performance was “not good enough from our part. We didn’t get the cohesive performance we were looking for, but we’ll hope to address that next week.”
Kilcoyne, 31, did not disappoint in his first Six Nations start as he stood in for the rested Cian Healy, but there was no disguising his and the team’s low ebb following a third game in a row that Ireland have failed to fire on all cylinders.
“I wouldn’t say confidence is low. We’re disappointed in that performance but we’ve still got five points from it so you’ve got to take that and we’re still in the competition but the demeanour in the dressing room afterwards was quite down and it almost felt like a loss.
“I suppose that’s the standards that are set inside in this team but to a degree, there’s areas we need to address. I don’t think it’s a confidence thing, I think it’s a cohesive thing in not nailing last passes for whatever reason and just not capitalising when we have a team on the edge.”
Having been third-choice loosehead behind Healy and Jack McGrath for much of his 27-Test Ireland career, the Munster prop is balancing his own good progress with a team not playing to its potential.
“Look, in one sense it’s great to be playing in that environment. You want to be playing in a team that has those high standards. They’re definitely there but it is frustrating that we’re not getting the performance that we really want. I don’t have the answers, I’ll have to go away and look at personally and holistically from a team perspective. As units we’ll look at it and come up with our own solutions and drive it on for France. That’s all you can do in this competition.” As for his personal advancement this season, Kilcoyne said: “It’s such a privilege to get a start in the Six Nations, they don’t come around that often. A lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into that and a lot of work. I was really keen to put in a good performance.
“It’s just being really consistent, and disciplined in your prep. Doing the same things day in, day out. It’s like you’re a 10-year overnight sensation.
“But it’s not, it’s what you do in your pre-pre-season, pre-season and onwards.
Every Sunday evening I sit down and write down exactly what I need to get through in the week, in terms of my weights sessions, in terms of my diet and what I need to do in the team sessions, things I need to improve.
“And, hopefully, you do all that every single week and it builds performances. You have a system that works for you and you just keep trying to improve and improve and improve.”
O’Mahony: We know we’re not far off
Peter O’Mahony believes Ireland are close to regaining the form that swept them to the Grand Slam a year ago.
O’Mahony captained Ireland for the first time in a Guinness Six Nations match and led them to a 26-16 bonus-point victory over Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico with a man-of-the-match performance.
Yet the collective effort was far from the high standards reach in 2018 as, for the third game in succession, the Irish struggled to put together a fluent performance, despite outscoring Conor O’Shea’s side by four tries to two.
“We know it’s there. We know we’re not far off,” O’Mahony said last night. “We’ve just got to figure out what we need to do to unlock it a little bit.
“It certainly isn’t from a lack of trying. Guys are working hard. They’re working hard in training to put it right and try to get our combinations right.
“We’ll get away for a few hours on Monday and get back in later in the week and get our heads together and try and get it sorted.”
O’Mahony pointed to a lack of cohesion in yesterday’s performance and Ireland’s current problems are not helped by the rusty form of key decision-makers and half-backs Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, with both showing signs of frustrations yesterday.
Sexton angrily kicked a towel lying on the ground as he was replaced in the dying minutes while Murray was caught napping at the base of a ruck as opposing scrum-half Tito Tebaldi snatched the ball from under his nose to set up the counter-attack that led to Luca Morisi’s try just before half-time.
Murray, still working his way back from the neck injury that sidelined him for the first three months of the season, would later claim the bonus-point try with some clever play, sniping from the tail of a driving maul to score down the blindside in the 67th minute, and kicking two conversions with Sexton managing a knock to his leg.
boss Joe Schmidt said of Murray: “I think Conor is still trying to find his feet. There’s a bit of a risk for Conor that he tries too hard. He’s frustrated that it’s not the smooth running machine that he normally is, he’s obviously frustrated to get pick-pocketed. He felt that the player was offside, but you can feel whatever you like — it is the game and you’ve got to get back into the game and you can’t let somebody have the ball when it’s in your hands.
“So he’s frustrated about a few things. I thought he kicked some really nice kicks and on the back of that I’m hoping that he gets his confidence back.
“As I said, there was a really nice pass at one stage straight to the player (Ultan Dillane) that gets knocked on. No doubt that hurts him because he’s feeling that he’s putting it out there, it’s got his zip in it but we didn’t get anything on the back of it other than an opposition scrum.
“I think he’s going to keep building, France will be another opportunity for him all things being equal.”