“We destroyed them at times” – Ireland reflect on quarter final defeat to New Zealand

Fine margins.

As Ireland get set to open up the defence of their Six Nations Grand Slam title against Les Blues in Marseille this weekend, the bitter taste of their last visit to France continues to linger for many.

The men in green defeated eventual winners South Africa in the Pools stage of the Rugby World Cup last year before yet another quarter-final exit at the hands of the All Blacks ended their hopes of going all the way.

It was the same All Blacks team that this Ireland side had defeated not once, but twice – and in New Zealand of all places, the previous summer.

So what happened? Ireland coach Simon Easterby spoke to us before this week’s Six Nations opener and gave his take on the matter.

“We probably didn’t fire enough shots and make the most of the opportunities in that game,” Easterby said of the defeat to New Zealand in Paris.

“They probably didn’t have to work as hard for their scores as we would have liked.

“We were a hair’s breadth away from scoring at the end. And fine, fine margins.

“The maul was really effective, we destroyed them at times in that area. We got on the wrong side of some refereeing decisions.

“But at the end of the day, it was 28-24, very little in it.”

France suffered a similar fate to Ireland, crashing out at the quarter-final stages, but Easterby says it’s now time to focus on what’s ahead.

“It’s probably a game that people thought would have been fitting for a World Cup final – but it wasn’t,” Easterby said of France and Ireland.

“We get the second prize of going after each other in the first game.

“I think there will be that story line around what happened in the World Cup, the fact that neither of us got past the quarter-finals.

“That’s really not a concern of ours. Our concern is trying to figure out a way to beat a very, very good team and that’s all we’ve prepared for across the last five or six days.

“There will be stories around what went on in the World Cup and does that kick on into the Six Nations, and inevitably, it is a story, but we have to focus on the here and now.

“It’s a great start for us to see where we’re at at the moment.”

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